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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Field Note: Bottlenose Whales in the Arctic

Published: February 12, 2021

By Mark Seth Lender

A bottlenose whale’s fluke breaches above the water. (Photo: © Mark Seth Lender)

Living on Earth's Explorer-in Residence Mark Seth Lender ponders the big questions that might be shared by species beyond our own.

Xenodon rabdocephalus, the Bottlenose Whale, is uncommon. There were probably never a lot of them. Hunted mercilessly, there are even fewer now. And as the hunting goes on (Iceland, Norway, Greenland, Japan all still hunt whales) I cannot say that none are taken, even now.

Despite which, this little pod encountered in Hudson Strait, saw my ship, turned, swam to us. And stayed alongside as long as we lingered. There was a gale closing in behind us and we had to move on. If we had not, my sense is that they would have stayed, and stayed. It never ceases to amaze me that other animals seek us out. What do they see? What are their thoughts? What is the question to which they seek an answer? Can it be much different than the one posed by Gauguin with such poignancy more than 120 years ago?

D’Ou Venons Nous
Que Somme Nous
Ou Allons Nous?

(Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?)

Paul Gauguin's D'où venons-nous? Que sommes-nous? Où allons-nous? (Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going?). (Image: Wikimedia Commons public domain)

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