Most would remember that scene in Star Trek: The Voyage Home where Spock jumps into the humpback whale enclosure and mind-melds with the whales, right?
When I saw that scene for the first time a couple of years ago, I was overcome with an intense desire to go and swim with whales. Honestly, the Star Trek movie wasn't the instigator of this desire, because I know that this desire began when I was a kid when I watched all three Free Willy movies – movies about the relationship between a boy, the west-coast aboriginals, and the orca named Willy. Long story short, the movies involved the kid swimming with Willy. A lot.
I always thought it would be really cool to swim with whales, but Mom managed to convince me that orcas are relatively dangerous, and then she showed me a video where an orca got a little too overenthusiastic and was jumping on his handler over and over. So... my desire to swim with whales jumped out the window... until I watched the Star Trek movie.
Recently, I came across a short Youtube video of humpback whales fighting to save a grey whale and her calf from a pod of orcas (so I guess orcas can be big jerks?). I wasn't specifically looking for videos of whales, I was actually looking for information on something else (which I can't remember), and the story the video was on was on the same website.
I guess I just never realized how vicious killer whales can be. Like, I've heard that orcas hunt dolphins – which I've always found rather strange since orcas are not whales, but actually are part of the dolphin genetic family (though don't ask me how or why). It's always made it seem rather cannibalistic.
After watching this video, I was curious. Was it true? Did humpback whales actively go to the rescue of other, smaller creatures who were in mortal danger?
Recommended videos popped up, and so I clicked on one after another, all related to humpbacks and how they helped those smaller than them. Then I came across the video of a humpback whale trying to save a diver from a threat she wasn't even aware of.
The fact that the whale surfaced after she had climbed back onto the boat to check to see if she was okay made my heart warm in such a way that I was moved to tears. It suddenly wanted to rush outside and jump out into the ocean and go swimming with one of these gentle giants. Unfortunately, I haven't lived near the ocean for over ten years, I don't live near any water, and I live nowhere near where these guys swim.
This research has stoaked my desire to swim with whales to a small fire, and so swimming with whales has been added to my bucket list. It's things like these that also reminds me that interesting research can be found in places other than what pertains to my writing, volcanoes, weather, and sci-fi.
What did we do to deserve whales?