Of joyful aloneness

There is no hydrophonic array, up here in the High Doganate, nor have I access to any elsewhere. The kitchen sink sometimes gurgles in an interesting way, but I find no fish in it, nor other signs of life above the microscopic scale. At least, no living fish, for I have overlooked several that were defunct. I think particularly of a tilapia which I dismembered recently. (Perhaps “filleted” is the nicer term.) It sang no songs, made no comments. It started from frozen; it never had a chance. But ah, to be an oceanographer!

I have never had a whale to tea, nor a porpoise, nor any other of that clade. Exigencies of space and altitude are such, that I have neither had the pleasure of those very low-frequency sounds when an ice berg scrapes along an ocean floor; nor the distant “bloops” of underwater ice-quakes; nor the mysterious “upsweeps” of presumed seismicity. I have heard not even one submarine vulcanogenic whistle, up here. Just the gurgle as the dishwater drains.

Hippiesque friends would sometimes import the whale sounds on audio tracks, into their home entertainment centres. Or sometimes, other undersea noises. These were typically “save the whales” types, which is to say, environmental tourists. Even killer whales tend to be shy, when they are not being psychopathically aggressive: either way one should leave them alone. When a marina customer gets attacked by one, I think we should rescue him. We must show some loyalty to our own species. Still, I can see both sides.

I loved travelling, and travellers, in my prime; yet always hated tourists. The person who will immerse himself in the foreign culture, sketch, and try to speak a little of its language, always seemed admirable to me. The true Western visitor is an amateur of anthropology — an “Orientalist” in the smear of the last generation of leftist smuglies. But tourists are mere pleasure seekers. They act only as ambassadors of our post-Christian consumerism. Let me extend this analogy to the voyagers on seas.

Very well, I am being unreasonable. I often am.

The first thing one should seek is discomfort. It is the reliable path to a little understanding. Love is, I hold, the great teacher; but pain is the great teaching assistant.

Among the more intriguing icons of pop science audio is a whale that no one has ever seen. It is known as the “52-hertz,” for it sings above the pitch of any other whale. No one knows what species, either: for it has, as it were, the coloratura of a blue, but the timing of a fin whale. It has been tracked for decades across the North Pacific, and moves just as a whale, and entirely unlike an extraterrestrial object. It may travel a few hundred miles in one season, several thousand in another to Alaska then south, but can’t do bilocation. No one can know how (being a whale) it can hit those exhilarating notes, in the lower range of a tuba.

Were it seeking a mate, it has yet to find one. Perhaps it is deaf, as some deaf mutes suggest. It has been called the “loneliest whale in the world,” but I see no reason to credit this. I am not saying that a whale can’t be subjective, or might even be able to feel sorry for himself — which would not be a sin, in a whale. But loneliness is such a human presumption.

With equal authority let me aver that God endowed this “freak” whale with this wonderful voice, so that God could hear it from on high. And from the deep, it replies in joy.