Call me Ishmael!

Today’s blog is going to get me a deal of criticism from the usual suspects. No doubt because I all my blogs are just what they appear, My Blogs, on My Website. I have highlighted on my website, that I understand I have right wing leanings, I’ve been around for a long while and have a seen a lot of life all over the world and have formed strong opinions. I would even agree with some of my Trolls that I am a self-opinionated beggar with extreme views. To repeat my manta, this is my website, my blog. You don’t have to read it, you certainly don’t have to agree with it and I listen to all criticism. I am also a country boy who hunted for food, during WWII, snaring and shooting rabbits and game, I no longer do so! I eat meat and I love eating fish, so it would seem sensible to manage stocks so that they don’t become endangered. It might also seem a perverse remark on my behalf, but I ate Whale meat on a couple of occasion during the war, it was awful. I also ate something called Snoek, a strange fish from South Africa and that tasted even worse.

At the very end of 2018 Japan announced that it was to restart commercial whaling in July this year, in a move that is likely to draw international criticism. It said that it is to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the body tasked with whale conservation. Commercial Whaling was banned by the IWC in 1986 after some species were driven almost to extinction. Japan, Norway and Iceland have been urging the IWC to lift the blanket ban and a coalition of anti-whaling nations has offered a compromise plan that would allow these countries to continue with smaller catches under close supervision. This, to me would seem a more sensible idea. Perhaps they were dragging their feet to long for Japan and their pre-emptive strike might uncork the bottle as it were.

During my rock-climbing days, spending regular weekends hanging from a rock face in the Llanberis Pass and our evenings taste testing the ales in a pub in Capel Curig, I remember one of my chums teasing our barmaid who was the spitting image of Dylan Thomas’s Gossamer Beynon, by telling her in a pseudo Welsh accent ” I really love Wales” and when she agreed with a big smile he went on “Yes, honestly, I’ve watched Moby Dick at least ten times”. It gave us all a laugh, probably helped by the local bitter.
Even longer ago, when Nelson was a boy, I was on a cargo boat chugging through the Indian Ocean, miles from anywhere when we came to a shuddering halt when we collided with an enormous Hump-backed whale that had like us been cruising along minding its own business. The collision was hard enough to result in a lot of broken crockery and a cabin boy with a broken arm. The damage to the whale was more serious, probably fatal. We stopped to examine our damage and were treated to a remarkable display as we watched the injured whale which was by then spouting blood and making heart rending bleating noises, as its partner appeared alongside it and appeared to be trying to keep it afloat.
We watched the display for ten minutes or so before it was full ahead both and we continued our way. The incident did not a lot more than give the crew a talking point on a long and boring journey. I was young enough to be upset by the fate of such a stunning beast.

A couple of years later I was aboard a large passenger liner and made a regular stopover in Capetown and on a run ashore, met up with some of the crew of a Norwegian Whale Factory Ship and over a glass of Tikki Hock ( a local brew), I related my own whaling tale. In the way of shipmates who would otherwise pass in the night I accepted their hospitality and returned with them to their ship for a tot or two. . . . . ..

Talk about the little ship of horrors, it was more like Dante’s Inferno as I was treated to a guided tour of the factory ship in full flow. A flow complete with blood, snot and horror that no-one had prepared this delicate seventeen-year-old for. The floating abattoir was as busy and noisy as any factory as workmen dealt with the huge carcase of a sperm whale with nothing wasted. Men were slicing huge lumps of flesh and blubber with long fletching knives and tossing lumps of it into huge steaming vats. They were slipping and sliding on bloody slime as they carried out their gruesome tasks. The sight and smell and noise of this steaming hell I will not carry on describing but I am sure that you get the picture.

I didn’t quite run away screaming, I just ran for the guardrail where I leant over for a ‘kit inspection’ of everything that I had eaten and drunk that day. I made my excuses and left.

Memory locked away in a filing cabinet in a folder marked not required on voyage through life.

Until that was when I read reports in the news that commercial whaling looks set to start up once more after the world had appeared to come to its senses in 1986 and said goodbye to the bloody slaughter.

I thought that we had become more civilised and had outlawed the hunting of great whales for good and allowed these marvellous and complex creatures to roam our ocean depths in peace. It now appears that the Japanese, Norwegians and Icelanders are about to convince the world’s politicians that they should be allowed to return to their barbarous ways in the of the innocents. I’m not sure that I want to still be around if they get their way. Perhaps I will hang around long enough to add my voice in opposition to try to stop this greedy and unnecessary trade.

Today, January 4th, 2019, headlines in the New Statesman reads Japan’s plan to resume commercial whaling could actually help whales. (not of course if you are a whale). The cynic in me says the Japan has never really stopped whaling, they just called it scientific whaling. The cynic on my other shoulder says if you want to know the outcome of this story FOLLOW THE MONEY.

My God! I’m beginning to sound like a tree hugger, but I assure you that I am not. I just love whales and Wales. Call me Ishmael. “There she blows! – there she blows! A hump like a snow-hill! It is Moby Dick!”

About Jake

Long retired travel writer, author and freelance journalist. Educated at Wolverton Grammar and Greenwich Naval College. Happily married since 1958, with a married son and daughter, a married granddaughter and an adult grandson. Hobbies rock-climbing, dinghy racing and ocean racing. Still regularly working out in the gym.
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