Madame Leviathan
August 2, 2018 6:03 PM   Subscribe

For nine days now, a grieving mother has refused to part with the body of her infant. Her people have been suffering from want, now that the salmon are failing them; one of her relatives is starving to death. Nonetheless, her family members are helping her to carry her burden. This was the first newborn among them in three years.
The mother, an orca called J35 or Tahlequah, has captured sympathy and attention across the world, and inspired a poem: "How to Swim an Elegy."
posted by Countess Elena (29 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
This story has been haunting me for days; there is something about the image of the mother orca literally carrying her burden of grief that has touched me deeply. I tear up every time I think of it or hear the story on the news.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:09 PM on August 2, 2018 [15 favorites]


.
posted by Fizz at 6:18 PM on August 2, 2018


.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:28 PM on August 2, 2018


Beautiful and heartbreaking. We don't deserve whales.
posted by Fizz at 6:49 PM on August 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


I would encourage everyone reading this to call Justin Trudeau and the Environment Minister and let them know what you think of their insistence on building the (now federally-owned) pipeline that the Canadian government has admitted will ensure the extinction of the southern resident orcas.

We've done this to them.
posted by junco at 6:56 PM on August 2, 2018 [32 favorites]


I lived in Seattle for a long time. The orcas in the sound are so much part of the public consciousness... my kid's elementary school is literally named after them and the organization of the grades named after the pods.

My heart just breaks and breaks from this story, and I haven't even lived there for years. This story is all over my facebook feed from my friends who still live there. I can't imagine what it's like to be living there.
posted by Sublimity at 7:15 PM on August 2, 2018 [5 favorites]


This is the saddest thing.
posted by corb at 7:56 PM on August 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


I have been following this story from the beginning. It was tragic even on the first day.
posted by gryphonlover at 7:58 PM on August 2, 2018 [3 favorites]


Gods. I hate this simulation so much.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 8:27 PM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


We are killing this planet.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:31 PM on August 2, 2018 [3 favorites]


.
posted by honey badger at 8:56 PM on August 2, 2018


They’re really smart and social animals and they live a long time. This pod regularly interacts with passing boats. The females are the leaders within the pod. They know that’s its not normal that they’ve stopped being able to have calves and replenish their population.

As this goes on longer, I can’t help but wonder if this is a deliberate protest targeted at us.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:00 PM on August 2, 2018 [37 favorites]


I have been listening to Faith No More's "We Care A Lot" often, these days. I do care about this. A lot. Back then my generation was powerless to do anything about all of the bitter, sarcastic issues we legit cared about. Just fucking overpowered by the Me-Generation numbers. Knowing we had no allies and no recourse.

We do now. I care a lot that orcas are losing their children due to global warming. I care a lot that the national news finds that more important than actual human beings losing their children because our government doesn't want our peach-colored nation turning beige.

I care a lot. It's cool to care a lot. We have to help the Orcas, we put them in this mess, it's our responsibility to get them out. It's our responsibility to put kids back with their parents.

It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:38 PM on August 2, 2018 [12 favorites]


.
posted by bcd at 10:07 PM on August 2, 2018


.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:40 PM on August 2, 2018


Bad becomes worse when cause of death is a 2 litre plastic bottle or some other man made piece of crap stuck in its gut.
posted by Afghan Stan at 2:56 AM on August 3, 2018


.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 4:28 AM on August 3, 2018




J-pod are locals and swim and feed off my local beaches fairly regularly. I've seen them with my own eyes from the beach half a dozen times now.

Much of the town has been following these events with a lot of sorrow, grief, anguish and anger.

These are very intelligent creatures. I have no doubt they know they are facing a crisis, and that they may be trying to tell us something about it.

PS: IF YOU CARE ABOUT CETACEANS AND ORCA, DO NOT TAKE WHALE WATCHING TRIPS. ALSO STOP EATING SALMON. EAT PLANTS.
posted by loquacious at 11:39 AM on August 3, 2018 [3 favorites]


,
posted by chance at 4:45 PM on August 3, 2018


Here in southeast Alaska salmon returns have been notably low this year and if my personal sense is reliable, late as well.

It's the first week of August already and though part of my walk every evening takes me along the banks of a salmon stream which should be crammed with pink salmon this time of year, I have barely seen any fish. Usually this time of year they are present in masses which would seem unbelievable if you've never seen them before -- fish by the thousands, visible bank to bank, schooling in the deeper sections of the creek, splashing in the shallows, jumping up the small waterfall a block down the hill from my house, and eventually as summer progresses a bit further, spawned out and dead and rotting by the thousands along the creek bank, giving the area near the creek an unmissable aroma at least until autumn rains come to flush the creek.

But this year they're not there. Some, undoubtedly, are bound to return but how many and what is disrupting the cycle?

Reportedly salmon have been suffering high mortality during the ocean-going part of their cycle in recent years, for reasons that are poorly understood, but this year we've also had very unusual weather (it was in the high 80s and rainless in Ketchikan most of last week, which is a longer stretch of hot, dry weather than I can remember during the 15 years I've lived here..) and those weather conditions directly influence the conditions in the streams the fish need to enter to spawn.

Salmon are the anchor species of the ecosystem here, and practically everything -- people, whales, bears, eagles, wolves, even to some extent the trees in the forest -- depends on their abundance. I don't know yet whether it's time to panic but I'm definitely concerned.
posted by Nerd of the North at 6:48 PM on August 3, 2018 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I wasn't kidding about not eating salmon. It's been off my list of things I'll eat for a few years now. I'll eat it if it's "free" as in "it's going in the trash if someone doesn't eat it" but I'll never purchase it again. (I feel this way about most meat, tbh. After nicotine, it's my next addiction and bad habit to give up.)

I've just seen too much of what they mean to the local ecosystem and what's going on with salmon fishing and farming.

Here's a thing most people don't know and I haven't really even seen discussed anywhere: When, say, commercial salmon or crab season opens, there's so many boats on the water tearing around at high speeds trying to make their piece of the quota before the season is closed that there's suddenly a heavy layer of smog from all the oil burning marine engines gunning it at full throttle, and the wakes from the boats are consistent and strong enough it's like a major storm system is battering the shallow, fragile coastline.

Keep in mind Puget Sound is not the ocean, it's usually very calm and this kind of persistent wave action comes with the winter storm season and (usually) high tides, and it doesn't involve heavy wave action directly on tidal shallows and eelgrass or kelp beds.

I work right on the waterfront and this year I was able to witness the healthy looking shoreline getting all kinds of torn up and fragile eelgrass and kelp beds go from healthy looking to looking like they'd been shredded with a weed wacker. They're still all torn up, and the crabs I watched growing up in the grass and rocks are gone.

I reiterate: Eat plants. There's nothing sustainable about salmon, shellfish and commercial fishing. You might as well litter plastic directly into the ocean. It's not a coincidence that most ocean plastics come from fishing, either.
posted by loquacious at 10:05 PM on August 3, 2018 [8 favorites]


There's nothing sustainable about salmon, shellfish and commercial fishing. You might as well litter plastic directly into the ocean. It's not a coincidence that most ocean plastics come from fishing, either.
Fisheries policy is a complicated issue and one I have neither the energy nor the inclination to debate here, so I'll just say that while I do believe that most fisheries are not managed properly I think loquacious' recommendation is overreaching. We should, however, err on the side of sustainability, which is unfortunately not how most fisheries are treated currently.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:32 PM on August 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


..this year we've also had very unusual weather (it was in the high 80s and rainless in Ketchikan most of last week, which is a longer stretch of hot, dry weather than I can remember during the 15 years I've lived here..) and those weather conditions directly influence the conditions in the streams the fish need to enter to spawn.
What's going on in Alaska is a little different than what's going on further south, but B.C. salmon are facing excessively high water temperatures in the rivers and streams to which they are returning as well.
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:28 PM on August 4, 2018


I think loquacious' recommendation is overreaching.

Let's check in in ten to fifteen years. It looks like we're losing our apex predators and things are probably going to get real weird.
posted by loquacious at 8:22 PM on August 6, 2018


But this year they're not there. Some, undoubtedly, are bound to return but how many and what is disrupting the cycle?

Oregon closes steelhead sanctuary off mouth of Deschutes to all fishing - "Biologists for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said the closure is intended to protect upriver-bound Columbia summer steelhead lingering in the Deschutes' cooler water as the Columbia warms up in summer heat."
Fishing Halted in Tri-City Area Due to Hot River Waters - "Washington officials are halting fishing on the Columbia River where sockeye salmon are waiting while Yakima River waters cool down enough for them to move upstream."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:08 PM on August 8, 2018




Not related to the main story of the post but as a data point about the health of ecosystems in the region.. pink salmon have just (as in: in the last week) begun returning in significant numbers to the creek down the hill from my house. They are nearly a month delayed and until today's rain the creek was too low (and probably too warm) for them to safely enter to spawn.

Salmon are under stress in the Pacific Northwest and when the salmon aren't happy, ain't nobody happy..

Bear activity in my neighborhood has been higher than usual, as there has been a lull between the peak of berry season and the arrival of salmon so they've been going through the neighborhoods looking for alternative food sources (e.g. trash). There seem to be a lot of cranky eagles hanging about, too, but I don't see many of them with fish. I'm sure it's also hard on the whales and all of the other species which depend on the usual incredible abundance of the salmon in order to survive the year. If the salmon fail then all are at risk.
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:13 PM on August 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


After 17 days, she has now finally let her baby go.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:56 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


« Older If You Share This Video, We Already Love You   |   Backwards in high heels isn't enough Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments