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In Praise Of the Lone Wolf (Or In This Case, Whale)


For anyone out there who’s ever felt like she needed to make a big change in her life, here’s a great story.

I don’t know about you, but the daily grind can get to me. Every Monday through Friday, I get up, get dressed, drive to work, spend ten hours in front of the computer, drive back home, eat dinner and then go to bed. The next day is exactly the same. After a while, it can get exhausting, and I only have a twenty minute commute. Imagine, then, how a humpback whale feels. Each spring the humpback whales of the Pacific travel thousands of miles north to feed, and each fall they return back to the warm southern waters to rest up and have babies. Each leg of the trip takes 2 to 3 months, which means a humpback whale spends half her life in traffic. Whining about my twenty minute commute starts to look a little pathetic. The migration patterns of whales are well established; sometimes they travel by themselves, sometimes with other whales, but they know exactly where they are going.

Last year one female humpback whale broke this well-established  routine in a fairly spectacular fashion. Instead of traveling north and south, this large lady headed east. She crossed into the Indian ocean on a road trip of over 6,000 miles from Brazil to Madagascar, making it the longest single trip by a mammal ever. Researchers don’t know exactly why this particular whale decided to go so far off the beaten path, but I sort of got excited about it.

At the risk of anthropomorphizing AHWC No. 1363 (yes, that’s the name the researches gave her. So lame), I love the idea of the world’s largest lady deciding she’s had enough with the same old same old and going on a 6,200 mile road trip of self discovery. You know, without the road. Sort of the whale version of Eat Pray Love.

The reason I love this story – aside from the inherent ‘you go girl’ feelings it inspires – is that this oddball whale could actually help the entire ecosystem. Even though whale populations have begun to recover from being decimated by whale hunting and over-fishing in the waters in which they live, their fixed migration patterns keep them fairly isolated. Think of a town in the middle of nowhere, where a person has little chance of meeting, let alone marrying, a person outside her town. Now think of what happens if the population of that town goes down to only a handful of people. Yuck.

So bold (or maybe just confused) AHWC No. 1363’s journey could be an opportunity for more genetic diversity, which could lead to hardier whales, which could lead to larger whale populations, which would lead to more photosynthesis (it’s a whale poop thing, don’t ask), which could lead to the reduction of greenhouse gases, which could lead to less climate instability… okay, maybe I’m getting a little carried away. But still, I am inspired. Going outside the expected path can be really difficult, but this story was a good reminder that the odd man/woman/whale out can truly make the world a better place.

Check out more about AHWC No. 1363


One Response to “In Praise Of the Lone Wolf (Or In This Case, Whale)”

  1. March 4, 2011 at 1:44 am

    Wow, that IS an incredible AND inspiring story. Is there a link where I can find out more about it? Did she make it there and back? Did she find a mate? I hope so. Thanks for posting this epic journey of such a brave (or maybe crazy? Crazy like a fox.) animal. I LOVE it! Rock on girl :)

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