To marvel or run?

Would this excite or terrify you?

(I found this video on a great blog called 2BAware.  The whale breaches 26 seconds into the video.  The other half a minute records the response of the woman on board.)

A number of commenters on the video’s Youtube page sound unsympathetic to the woman’s distress.  They were apparently left by people who don’t yet know that breaching whales can and do sometimes land on boats.  Case in point:  An incident off Cape Town earlier this year.  (Amazing video. The whale and the couple on board were evidently okay but the yacht wasn’t.)


(This photo is part of a slideshow at ABC News.)

The hubster and I are big fans of extreme survival literature and it was during the reading of  some of these books that I first discovered that collisions between boats and whales really do occur.  There’s also the Large Whale Ship Strike Database compiled by the National Marine Fisheries Service that makes for some fun/disturbing reading if you’re into that kind of thing.

Maybe that’s why I felt a wave of compassion for the woman in the video, because I knew her fears weren’t entirely unjustified.

I couldn’t help but wonder what MY response would be in that kind of situation.  Would my awe at the spectacle outweigh my flight response?  Maybe a little of both?  Hard to know unless it happens I suppose.

I’m pretty sure of one thing though…if fear DID win out, I wouldn’t sound nearly as nice as this poor woman does.  I’d be swearing like a sailor and that camcorder would be in serious danger of going overboard.  (My flight and fight responses tend to get all mixed up in a crisis.)

copyright Dia Osborn 2012

Saving Valentina

And finally…on this blog devoted to talking about dying…here’s a story of something that didn’t die.  This big, beautiful girl came very close but was ultimately saved from drowning by a handful of people (who took a huge risk in doing so I might add.)

On Valentine’s Day earlier this year in the Sea of Cortes down in Mexico, Michael Fishbach was in a small boat with his family and a couple of friends when they came upon a young, humpback whale severely entangled in fisherman’s netting.  At first she appeared to be dead.  But then they saw her exhale and realized she was exhausted and frightened but still alive.  Her tail was weighted down about fifteen feet by all the fishing gear, both pectoral fins were pinned to her sides, and the net went up over her back forward of the dorsal fin.  I can only imagine the thrashing and rolling she must have initially executed in her attempts to get clear of the net that led to so severe an entanglement, or the terror she must have experienced as it tightened around her.

At this point they had to decide whether they were going to watch helplessly as she slowly drowned or try and help her.  Amazingly, as you’ll see in the video, Michael slipped on his snorkel, grabbed the one small knife they had in the boat, and swam slowly over to where she was floating to assess the situation.

At this point in the video I heard a weighty, entangling, and suffocating voice in my own head begin it’s droning about how stupid and dangerous it was for him to even try, but then the girl with wild hair inside me who adores the sea slipped past and ran to the edge of the boat, pumping her hand in the air and cheering Michael on.

Because sometimes safety just isn’t the most important thing.

What follows over the next few hours is a series of courageous attempts and lucky accidents that lead to the saving of a gigantic, and unspeakably precious, young life.  There were so many things that could have gone wrong, things that would have made the situation far more tragic than it already was.  But surprisingly, none of those things happened which confirms yet again what my grey and grizzled father–career warrior, survivor of three major wars, and witness to countless weird and miraculous events on the battlefield–has always told me:

Dia, if it’s your time to die then it’s your time to die, and nothing can save you.  But if it’s not your time to die then it’s just not, and nothing…nothing…can kill you.

Clearly, it wasn’t anybody’s time to die in the Sea of Cortez last Valentine’s Day.

Here’s the video, Saving Valentina, if you get the chance.

copyright Dia Osborn 2011