Monday, January 13, 2014

The loneliest whale

At the end of 1980s, William Atkins of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution noticed something peculiar among the US Navy's recordings from hydrophone of the haunting moans of whales in the North Pacific. He noticed that while most of the male fin and blue whales vocalize at a range of about 17 to 18 Hertz, one whale was consistently vocalizing at a much higher range of 52 Hz. Atkins' team was set to publish the journal detailing the ease of tracking this unfamiliar whale. But the media picked this up and gave birth to what we call now "the loneliest whale in the world."

They say this whale has no one but himself. Because his calls are in different frequency, he never had a mate, a lover. They say he roams the ocean all by himself calling out for a possible companion, but his desperate calls remain unanswered, some even go far as to saying ignored. That "with every lonely song, he becomes sadder and more frustrated, his notes going deeper in despair as the years go by."

This whole tale can get sappier than this. But setting aside the mutation of all the write-ups (not knowing which are reputable anymore or worthy of using as reference), the whale's story was indeed a spot on. I was immediately moved. And then I laughed. Apparently, even in the animal kingdom, there is a space where I can identify this seemingly endless solitude I've been carrying with me.

Many are romanticizing the idea of this whale desperate to find his life companion in that vast stretches of the open ocean. Artworks were created. Poems and songs were written fixating on the suffering the whale must've endured with all those years of being alone. Many have written e-mails to marine scientists pleading for help, that this lonely whale may finally find someone to be with. 

I almost added a thing to this vast collection of lonesome tributes to what has become the monumental figure of desolation in the ocean. But to break the tear-jerker sentiments, the story's cynics blame the anthropomorphizing of this to the media. The journal, they said, was twisted to serve a dramatized plot for some virtual soap-opera. 

Atkins, the head researcher, succumbed to cancer right after the publishing of his journal, and was not able to shed light on the matter when the subject spread in mainstream media like wildfire. The researchers are not even sure if the 52 Hz whale is a new specie, a hybrid perhaps, or the last remaining kind of its own. Mary-Ann Daher, a member of the team who wrote the paper, admitted they never saw the whale. Whether it is indeed sad or alone remains a subject of debate. Since 1992, scientists were only able to track it through its calls, never having any visual. 

But since the world is already fascinated, a team is now headed to find this so-called "loneliest whale in the world." A documentary is also being shot as of this writing. 

With all the confusion, agenda setting, and drama aside, I think this very reaction to such undoubtedly sad tale of a whale highly speaks a lot for us as a society. Are most of us identifying ourselves with this whale? Do we see ourselves as this solitary creature roaming this world in our desperate call for companion yet nobody seems to understand or at least hear us? Are we feeling more alone than ever despite the technology bridging us more than we could imagine?

I must admit I am tired of saying this, and I know a lot of people are also tired of hearing this from me, but I've been single since...well, eversince. And when I look around, I see people perfectly happy with their companions. I always see myself in a scenario like this: alone in a restaurant packed with lovely couples canoodling under the muted light of the night and table candles while I eat alone in a corner, shunned away for everybody for the fear of me destroying this whole perfectly crafted picture. So it baffles me, the way a lot of people are affected with this whale that I have to ask: is the case of my singlehood not so isolated, after all?

Despite all the theories, and even with some experts saying he might be a deformed creature, I think this 52 Hz whale is perfectly fine. And how can he not be? He survived all those years without a mate. He is a strong creature of this world. He should be admired for just the mere fact of surviving such harsh environment all by himself while others miserably failed instead of being pitied upon. He maybe lonely, or alone, or depressed with his solitude, but he already proved that he can live with it. 

And, yes, to add more to this seemingly neverending over-anthropomorphizing, I think it is unfair to conclude that he is lonely, even alone. Who knows, even though he's still having a hard time finding his mate, he has his friends, or families he's sharing the ocean with from time to time. And maybe he's sad from time to time, but maybe he also enjoys his solitude. 

Here's another theory: maybe he's singing and dancing to his own carefully written song. That other creatures are woefully unaware of the fun and excitement his music brings because they are just stupidly focused on cliches and societal dictates. He could be the happiest whale in the world for all we know, carving his own path, blissfully in love with travelling and totally cool with hanging out with anyone who comes his way. 

Or maybe, he's happy just existing. 

4 reaction(s):

yccos said...

Hmmm.. Makes me think for myself....
I look forward to watching that docu, I hope its Sir David Attenborough who will do the voice over... Hehehe...

JM said...

Or maybe, he is just grateful he exists.

Awww. Huwag ka mag-alala. A lot of people are single since birth. One of your admirers is.

red the mod said...

It would be nice to be with someone, but would you be a failure if you weren't? A loud, resounding, 52-Hz no.

We'll have ours. Someday. :)

Simon said...

someone will eventually come your way :)


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