Mother and Calf

Humpback-Whale-and-Her-CalfI’m posting this on the day that Australia takes Japan to the International court of Justice in The Hague over the legality of its Southern Ocean whaling program. The Japanese Government has issued permits to the Institute for Cetacean Research to take up to 850 minke whales, 50 fin whales, and 50 humpback each year for the purposes of ‘scientific research’ This excerpt from  my book A Savage History is just one of the stories from the book that illustrate the conflicts the Japanese people have been going through for some time concerning the slaughter of whales. The story is paraphrased from the book Whaling Ship Diary written in 1941 by Marukawa Hisatoshi to explain the science and technology of whaling to children. He writes: ‘Once I heard a story that goes like this.’

There was a young harpoon gunner who began working on a catcher boat at the age of thirteen, when he was highly praised for his skill and accuracy. He grew up, married, and his wife gave birth to a son, which made him very happy. Every one of his friends and family congratulated him on the birth of a son.

After the birth he went back to his job. One day, the catcher boat came upon two whales swimming in the distance. They sped towards them, the boat made ready for the catch, and the gunner stood behind his harpoon. When they got closer, they discovered that what they thought were two whales were three, two adults and a calf. The calf was swimming as fast as it could and the two adults had moved in closer to protect the calf. The gunner was surprised by this and was staring at them until the captain yelled at him to fire. He fired at the calf and scored a direct hit.

The crew cheered, the gunner was pleased at his skill, but then something happened. As he watched, he noticed that the mother whale had gone to the side of the calf and tapped it on the head with her pectoral fin, and then it was covered in something white. She had released her mother’s milk as a final gesture of love for her child.

He looked at the whale and the calf and the image of his wife and his son came to him. The captain’s angry voice commanding him to shoot once again bought him out of his trance. Marukawa wrote: ‘In his mind, once more bringing his hands together in prayer,’ he shot the mother. Not long after, the harpoon gunner left whaling and chose another occupation.



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