Giants of the deep, the whale shark is the largest fish in the ocean





Proof, if that was ever needed, that life evolves from different angles to fill the same ecological niche, is the whale shark. Mammals are the largest filter feeders, yet their breathing system is less well adapted to the ocean environment than the gills of a true aquatic like the whale shark. And yet the whale shark, even though feeding on the same food, has not yet reached the size of a blue whale, as an indicator that the breathing with lungs is more efficient - even though tying whales proper to the surface.


The whale shark is found in tropical and warm oceans and lives in the open sea, with a lifespan of about 70 years. Whale sharks have very large mouths, and as filter feeders, they feed mainly on plankton. The BBC program Planet Earth filmed a whale shark feeding on a school of small fish. The same documentary showed footage of a whale shark timing its arrival to coincide with the mass spawning of fish shoals and feeding on the resultant clouds of eggs and sperm.





The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is a slow-moving filter feeding shark and the largest known extant fish species. The largest confirmed individual had a length of 12.65 m (41.50 ft) and a weight of more than 21.5 metric tons (47,000 lb), and unconfirmed reports of considerably larger whale sharks exist. Claims of individuals over 14 m (46 ft) long and weighing at least 30 mt (66,000 lb) are not uncommon. The whale shark holds many records for sheer size in the animal kingdom, most notably being by far the largest living nonmammalian vertebrate. It is the sole member of the genus Rhincodon and the family, Rhincodontidae (called Rhiniodon and Rhinodontidae before 1984), which belongs to the subclass Elasmobranchii in the class Chondrichthyes. The species originated about 60 million years ago.


The species was distinguished in April 1828 after the harpooning of a 4.6-m-long specimen in Table Bay, South Africa. Andrew Smith, a military doctor associated with British troops stationed in Cape Town, described it the following year. The name "whale shark" comes from the fish's size, being as large as some species of whales and also that it is filter feeder like baleen whales.






Despite its size, the whale shark does not pose significant danger to humans. Whale sharks are docile fish and sometimes allow swimmers to catch a ride, although this practice is discouraged by shark scientists and conservationists because of the disturbance to the sharks. Younger whale sharks are gentle and can play with divers. Underwater photographers such as Fiona Ayerst have photographed them swimming uncomfortably close to humans without any danger.

The shark is seen by divers in many places, including the Bay Islands in Honduras, Thailand, the Philippines, the Maldives, the Red Sea, Western Australia (Ningaloo Reef, Christmas Island), Taiwan, Panama (Coiba Island), Belize, Tofo Beach in Mozambique, Sodwana Bay (Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park) in South Africa, the Galapagos Islands, Isla Mujeres and Bahía de los Ángeles in Mexico, the Seychelles, West Malaysia, islands off eastern peninsular Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Oman, Fujairah, and Puerto Rico.

In Vietnamese culture, the whale shark is revered as a deity called Cá Ông, which literally translates as "Sir Fish".

In the Philippines, it is called 'butanding' and 'balilan.' The whale shark is featured on the reverse of the Philippine 100-peso bill.






Neither mating nor pupping of whale sharks has been observed. The capture of a female in July 1996 that was pregnant with 300 pups indicated whale sharks are ovoviviparous. The eggs remain in the body and the females give birth to live young which are 40 to 60 cm (16 to 24 in) long. Evidence indicates the pups are not all born at once, but rather the female retains sperm from one mating and produces a steady stream of pups over a prolonged period. They reach sexual maturity at around 30 years and their lifespan is an estimated 70 to 100 years.


On 7 March 2009, marine scientists in the Philippines discovered what is believed to be the smallest living specimen of the whale shark. The young shark, measuring only 38 cm (15 in), was found with its tail tied to a stake at a beach in Pilar, Philippines, and was released into the wild. Based on this discovery, some scientists no longer believe this area is just a feeding ground; this site may be a birthing ground, as well. Both young whale sharks and pregnant females have been seen in the waters of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean, where numerous whale sharks can be spotted during the summer.






The whale shark is targeted by commercial fisheries in several areas where they seasonally aggregate. The population is unknown and the species is considered vulnerable by the IUCN. It is listed, along with six other species of sharks, under the CMS Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks. In 1998, the Philippines banned all fishing, selling, importing, and exporting of whale sharks for commercial purposes, followed by India in May 2001, and Taiwan in May 2007. They are currently listed as a vulnerable species, but continue to be hunted in parts of Asia, such as Taiwan and the Philippines.

In 2006, Resorts World Sentosa announced its plans to bring in whale sharks for their marine life park. This was met with opposition from seven notable conservation societies. In 2009, the plan was shelved in favour of a search for other alternatives.

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon, Gulf of Mexico oil spill resulted in 4,900,000 barrels (780,000 m3) of oil flowing into an area south of the Mississippi River Delta, where one-third of all whale shark sightings in the northern part of the gulf have occurred in recent years. Sightings confirmed that the whale sharks were unable to avoid the oil slick, which was situated on the surface of the sea where the whale sharks feed for several hours at a time. No dead whale sharks were found.

This species was also added to Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2003 to regulate the international trade of live specimens and its parts.



Whale sharks get caught in fishing nets





These pictures capture the incredible moment when two whale sharks trapped inside a fishing net were set free.


The amazing images (see more on the Daily Mail website) show divers Chris Rohner and Clare Prebble helping free the tangled pair - which then swim alongside them to say thanks.

Marine biologist Simon Pierce captured the release after approaching fisherman off Mafia Island, Tanzania, who were preparing for the rescue.

There were two sharks in the net - one 8m long adult and a smaller 5m fish - throughout the dive which took place in November.





Simon, from New Zealand is quoted as saying: 'The main conservation challenge there is conflict between fishermen and sharks.'

'The fishers use nets to catch small fish and tuna which feed on the same little shrimps the whale sharks eat.'

'They look for schools of fish on the surface and quickly run a net around them.'

'The fish are trapped within the loop and the net is pulled in by hand. It's hard, labour-intensive work with 30-50 fishers on each boat.'

'If whale sharks are amongst the fish then they often get enclosed in the net themselves.'

'A lot of the sharks have entanglement scars so it's obvious this can be a problem.'

'Once the net had been pulled together the whale sharks approached the surface and Chris swam in to check they were okay.'

'The larger shark eventually swam right up to the net so the fishers lowered the floats so he could swim across without tangling.'

'The shark gave a couple of big kicks and swam away fine before the second, smaller shark followed.'

Simon, 35, is the Principal Scientist in charge of the Global Whale Shark Research Program for the Marine Megafauna Foundation. He is quoted as saying: 'Our project team has started to work with the fishermen and they're great.'

'They help us to find the sharks and even report in their sighting information when we're not there.'

'The fishers aren't interested in catching the sharks - they want to let them escape with no fuss so they can keep the fish in the net.'

'During the day it all worked like the well-practiced operation it is. No damage to the net and the sharks escaped without any injury.'

'Mafia is one of the best places in the world to see whale sharks as individual sharks spend a long time in the area.' 'It allows us to find them consistently.' 







Whale sharks have a mouth that can be 1.5 m (4.9 ft) wide, containing 300 to 350 rows of tiny teeth and 10 filter pads which it uses to filter feed. Whale sharks have five large pairs of gills. The head is wide and flat with two small eyes at the front. Whale sharks are grey with a white belly. Their skin is marked with pale yellow spots and stripes which are unique to each individual. The whale shark has three prominent ridges along its sides. Its skin can be up to 10 cm (3.9 in) thick. The shark has a pair of dorsal fins and pectoral fins. Juveniles' tails have a larger upper fin than lower fin, while the adult tail becomes semilunate. The whale shark's spiracles are just behind its eyes.

The whale shark is the largest non-cetacean animal in the world. The average size of adult whale sharks is estimated at 9.7 m (31.82 ft) and 9 t (20,000 lb). The largest verified specimen was caught on 11 November 1947, near Baba Island, in Karachi, Pakistan. It was 12.65 m (41.50 ft) long, had a girth of 7 m (23.0 ft), and weighed approximately 25.5 t (56,000 lb), according to a reliable interspecific shark weight formula. Stories exist of vastly larger specimens – quoted lengths of 18 m (59 ft) and 45.5 t (100,000 lb) are common in the popular literature, but no scientific records support their existence. In 1868, the Irish natural scientist Edward Perceval Wright obtained several small whale shark specimens in the Seychelles, but claimed to have observed specimens in excess of 15 m (49.2 ft), and tells of shark specimens surpassing 21 m (68.9 ft).

In a 1925 publication, Hugh M. Smith described a huge animal caught in a bamboo fish trap in Thailand in 1919. The shark was too heavy to pull ashore, but Smith estimated the shark was at least 17 m long, and weighed around 37 t. These measurements have been exaggerated to 43 t and a more precise 17.98 m in recent years. A shark caught in 1994 off Tainan County, southern Taiwan, reportedly weighed 35.8 t (79,000 lb). There have even been claims of whale sharks of up to 23 metres (75 ft) and 100 tonnes (220,000 lb). In 1934, a ship named the Maurguani came across a whale shark in the southern Pacific Ocean, rammed it, and the shark became stuck on the prow of the ship, supposedly with 4.6 m on one side and 12.2 m on the other. No reliable documentation exists for these claims and they remain "fish stories".






The whale shark inhabits all tropical and warm-temperate seas. The fish is primarily pelagic, living in the open sea but not in the greater depths of the ocean. Seasonal feeding aggregations occur at several coastal sites such as the southern and eastern parts of South Africa; Saint Helena Island in the South Atlantic Ocean; Gulf of Tadjoura in Djibouti, Gladden Spit in Belize; Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia; Lakshadweep, Gulf of Kutch and Saurashtra coast of Gujarat in India; Útila in Honduras; Southern Leyte; Donsol, Pasacao and Batangas in the Philippines; off Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox in Yucatan and Bahía de los Ángeles in Baja California, México; Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia; Nabire National Park in Indonesia; Nosy Be in Madagascar Off Tofo Reef near Inhambane in Mozambique; the Tanzanian islands of Mafia, Pemba, Zanzibar; the Dimaniyat Islands in the Gulf of Oman and Al Hallaniyat islands in the Arabian Sea; and, very rarely, Eilat, Israel and Aqaba, Jordan.


Although typically seen offshore, whale sharks have been found closer to land, entering lagoons or coral atolls, and near the mouths of estuaries and rivers. Its range is generally restricted to about 30° latitude. It is capable of diving to depths of at least 1,286 m (4,219 ft), and is migratory. On 7 February 2012, a large whale shark was found floating 150 kilometres (93 mi) off the coast of Karachi, Pakistan. The length of the specimen was said to be between 11 and 12 m (36 and 39 ft), with a weight of around 15,000 kg (33,000 lb).

In 2011, more than 400 whale sharks gathered off the Yucatan Coast. It was one of the largest gatherings of whale sharks recorded.

Gulf of Tadjoura in Djibouti where whale sharks congregate between the months of October and March has become a popular destination for swimming with the gentle giants of the sea.






Chapter 28   -  SHARK ATTACK  1640 E, 80 N

 (extract from: The $Billion Dollar Whale by Jameson Hunter © 2014)


Visibility was excellent and the sea was state three on the Beaufort scale – just a light breeze for hardened mariners. The sun was readying to settle after a glorious day’s sailing, sinking slowly into the horizon. The Elizabeth Swan had covered 150 nautical miles since sun up, cruising fast at 18.75 knots, her low drag hull cutting through the deep blue Pacific water with consummate ease.

“Skipper,” said Dan, over the tannoy, “according to the log, we’ve covered 2,000 miles since leaving Honolulu Harbour.”

“Great, that’s 200 miles a day. We’d be way in the lead.” 

John knew what Dan would be thinking. He’d joined the project to prove solar technology, not rescue a whale. In the background, John could hear the radio broadcasting the latest race positions and speculation as to the missing race leader. Starlight was now in the lead. John wondered again what Sarah was up to? He gave in. 

“Navigator to Starlight, come back Starlight.” …… Silence and some crackles…..

“Navigator to Starlight, over.” Silence….

“Dan, switch to autopilot and take her down to 5 knots on batteries. Oh, and lift the boom manually - when the sun disappears. Cheers.”

The radio crackled into life. “Hello John, this is Starlight, caught any good fish?”

“Hi Sarah. Just heard the race update, thought we’d offer our congratulations - well done. Over.”

“Never mind that, how’s the search going? Over.”

“Not a jot, keep in touch. Over.”

“Okay big boy, we’re all thinking of you. Mum’s the word, out.”

Dan was keeping a sharp lookout from the Com, while John scoured the horizon with renewed vigour through powerful Karl Zeiss binoculars, straining for every last detail which might resemble a whale.

After another 20 minutes John blasted, “Dan, you still awake?”

“Yuuup,” he said involuntarily snapping back to attention, “but this chair sure is comfy, any chance of a brew?”

John smiled to himself. He was feeling slightly jaded also and the chairs upfront were exceptionally comfortable. “Okay, I’ll sort some liquid. You keep at it.”

John hung his spyglasses up and deftly swung into the cabin below. After a whirlwind galley brew, for  which he was famous, he delivered a cup to Dan. “Offf,” he sighed, collapsing into the soft white leather chair next to Dan. John took two sips then sat upright again. He focused on the instruments for a moment. Nothing was showing.

“We won’t find anything chatting,” he said suddenly, and with that he spun himself out of the chair and off he strode to the aft helm.

Coffee mug firmly located in a gimballed holder and spyglasses snugly pressed against his brows, John scanned left and right, then right and left. He checked the compass bearing – west, south west. 

“Dan, any thoughts on position? We should have sighted the whale long ago by my reckoning.”

“It’s the old needle in the haystack problem. It’s a large ocean Skip.”

John climbed onto the solar decking for a better angle. The light was just perfect for spotting unusual surface activity on the horizon. There was a dark patch to the left.

“Dan, look on the sonar, steer 15 degrees to port.”

John strained hard, looking at the small patch which was now dead ahead and closing to 1200 metres. He swore he could see the patch moving and rubbed his eyes. His skin prickled. Dan came over the tannoy. “John, this is weird, the sonar shows several small blips.” Both men were now straining for detail. Two intense minutes ticked by.

“700 metres and closing.”  Another minute passed.

“400 metres.”

John could now see movement on the surface, the unmistakable darting of shark fins, circling the dark patch. An icy shudder passed through him.   

The great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is one of the most beautifully adapted predators in the ocean with a kill rate of some 50%. It is the most efficient and most feared big fish. They can smell blood in the water at just one part in a million. They’ve been swimming the oceans for millions of years virtually unchanged, their streamlined shape near perfection. They migrate across the oceans for up to 7,000 kilometres, to take advantage of known food sources, such as seals. With an impressive 70% of muscle, special drag reducing scales and a heat exchange conservation system that allows them to keep their blood 140 warmer than other sharks, they can attack prey at phenomenal speeds for short duration.

An array of electrical sensors around their open mouths enables the white shark to see the electrical fields around their prey, with their eyes shut. They have rows of triangular razor sharp serrated teeth, which allow them to saw through their food, by shaking their heads violently from side to side, notoriously depicted in the film Jaws in the opening sequence. Also known as white death, the great white is the most dangerous to man. The Pacific Ocean is full of these roving predators on the lookout for their next meal.



Kulo Luna, the $Billion Dollar humpback whale


Humpback whales are among the most intelligent of creatures, hunted illegally by certain countries to near extinction, they inspired Jameson Hunter to pen his story about one whale and an adventurer that were bound together on a course with destiny.  Sydney harbour is the location for chapter 4 (order may be subject to editorial revision).


The wounded humpback had laid a trail in the water betraying its course; the smell of blood in the water had drawn several great whites from miles around to the possibility of an easy meal.  It looked as though the only reason the sharks hesitated was that the whale was still obviously mobile and a well aimed blow from its huge flippers, was potentially dangerous. They kept their distance looking for the right moment to strike. Time was on their side, or so the sharks thought.

“Dan, action stations, come aft quickly. Sharks! We might be too late.”

Dan ran along the walkway his deck shoes screeching from the acceleration, then through the aft module. They were just 300 metres away. Dan took the helm.

“Great,” said John.

“200 metres skip and look at all those great whites and the size of that humpback. It’s huge,” gasped Dan.

Four sharks now circled the humpback whale, another having joined the pack. John rigged up the rear searchlights – the light was fading. What now, he thought. John lifted up a seat locker taking out his diving suit and hoped for inspiration.

“Bring us alongside.”

Dan reduced revolutions, stopped engines and reversed thrust, while swinging the Navigator skillfully ahead of the whale to port. Blood was in the water. Dan looked back to see John suiting up for a dive.

“Dan, make us a big brew and get me a feed from our sound system, with plenty of cable. The whale’s bleeding badly.”

“Done skip.”

John pulled out a loud-hailer. Hmmm,

“Okay, Dan, can you dig out some whale song recordings – old chum.”

“Tough call skip, I’ll try,” came the reply. “Wait a minute, we got some in Hawaii, didn’t we.” John winked to signify his shipmates catch-up.

John rummaged around for a bin liner or inflatable bed, but instead found an old Harrods carrier bag. It was nice, thick, quality plastic. That’ll do. He ducked into the galley and came out with two chocolate Mars bars, which he tucked into his dive pockets.


John continued to suit up, slung a single cylinder dive pack on his back and wetted his mask.

“Dan, the sharks are getting kinda hungry.”

John pulled a spear gun from another seat locker, along with six spears, which he clipped onto his backpack. Dan came out with a coiled cable.

“Here skip, tie these on.”

He rushed back inside. John bared the cable ends and pried the back cover from the loud-hailer, pulling the wires from the speaker coil carefully. He twisted the new cable ends to the coil one at a time, then went back into the locker for some insulating tape and a reel of gaffer tape. Then he taped the wires to insulate them, and stretched the Harrods bag over the speaker end, winding the rim with the gaffer tape several times, and tearing the tape with his teeth. Classical music suddenly drifted up from the galley speakers, followed by singing whales.

“Ready when you are skip.”

John had already lifted the deck hatch and was half way down the three meters of steps to the diving platform, when Dan’s face appeared in the hatch frame.

“Get ready to turn up the music Dan.”

“Okay, should I record on the underwater cams.”

“Why not. Warn me if the sharks get too close,” smirked John.

They both looked across to the circling sharks. John put the megaphone into the water while still hanging from the boarding rungs. He squeezed the trigger switch sending a piercing stream of audio beneath the waves. The sharks began swimming erratically almost immediately, describing a wider circle as if looking away from the injured whale for other whales, yet still drawn to the smell of blood. The songs continued playing disorienting the sharks, at the same time the whale began to move energetically. John entered the water spear-gun in hand. This was going to be dangerous, he thought, as he went under. Now he could hear the singing. One inquisitive shark headed straight toward him.  

“Look out Skip,” said Dan through the loudhailer.

John braced himself, head to head with a great white before bunk time was not his idea of fun. He pointed the spear-gun at the shark without flinching, ready to fire if need be. The shark came straight for him mouth closed but veered off at the last minute, rubbing his sandpaper like scales against the sharp tip of the spear, which drew blood from the shark and must have hurt.

Dan turned the volume up full blast, which seemed to send three of the great whites swimming off in different directions. More agitated than before, the injured shark again swum for John, this time mouth wide open and head back in that famous toothy grin, revealing the full magnificence of the rows of deadly triangular serrated teeth. John fired a warning shot which the shark felt with its mouth sensors and took evasive action. John was loath to harm even a shark, if unnecessary. He quickly reloaded and braced himself for another pass.

 Dan was watching in disbelief. He’d seen quite a few TV documentaries about shark attacks, but never imagined he’d witness a close encounter first hand. John leapt out of the water in a surge of white froth.

“Dan can you hear me?” John shouted from the water.

“Yo skip.”

“I grazed that first one. That was too close for comfort. I’m gonna take a look at the whale’s wound. Can you grab all our medical supplies and put them on the galley table.”

“Going in again now? You must be crazy”

“Got no choice.”

“Okay skippa.” Dan still thought he was crazy. He had visions of John being bitten in two, followed by a feeding frenzy. He was seriously worried, almost in shock himself. Adrenaline coursed through his body. He wondered what John must be experiencing. Dan climbed down and handed John a thermal mug, keeping a watchful eye on the sea, as he did so he remembered that the blood from a great white frightens other sharks away, including great whites.

“Cheers bud,” said John taking a few gulps of hot fluid, then headed back into the water. Keeping a weather eye open for return of any triangular toothed opportunists, John swam over to the whale, somewhat wary in case the animal decided that he was unwelcome. The whale had stopped its agitated movement, as it watched the great whites swim off, noting the bravery of the human with strange twin flippers and metal cylinder on its back that breathed noisily at regular intervals. John swam, around the magnificent creature, looking for signs of injury, and there was some grazing down one side of its body. 

The whale was tangled in a mass of fishing gear, ropes and nets. They'd not noticed that before because most of it was submerged. Then he spotted the slice wound just behind the whales spout, before its dorsal fin. It was a serious looking gash about a meter in length, where the harpoon had glanced off, slicing through about 600 millimetres of flesh as it went. Blood was escaping at quite a rate. You were lucky my beauty, thought John to himself. 

Modern harpoons explode once embedded, thanks to Sven Foyn, a Norwegian whaling captain, who invented these lethal weapons in 1864. If the harpoon had found its target and exploded, this whale would now be sushi. 

The back wound was bad enough, but the fishing nets had the potential to do far more damage, tiring the whale out and reducing transit efficiency. Hundreds of whales, seals, turtles and even sharks drown each year from discarded fishing gear. John had known about this problem but not seen it for himself. The sudden impact of the problem made his blood boil. He imagined how awful an intelligent creature like a whale must feel once entangled and helpless. 

John took out his knife and began cutting the fishing net from the whale. Working slowly so as not to distress the animal more than necessary he worked his way back to the tail, almost getting himself caught up more than once. He mused to himself, it was that easy to fall foul of these floating traps. That's fine for a diver with a sharp knife. For a helpless animal with flippers, it is like a hangman waiting around every corner. As each section of the net was cut away John patted the whale, speaking to it. 

"There, there. Not long now." As each rope was cut off John felt as though he was almost freeing himself, it was a challenge. The whale could feel the ropes falling away and moved its body in appreciation, pushing against John and forcing him sideways at quite a rate. 

"Good whale, stay still now." He waited for the animal to stop moving before resuming the rescue. He didn't mind the fidgeting, he'd probably do the same. The whale must have read his thoughts, stopping to allow the remaining ropes to be cut away. It knew this was a rescue and John sensed that it knew. So John worked even harder, trying to suppress his excitement and remain focused. The ropes and nets were coming away in larger sections until finally they were gone. The whale felt this also and gave out a loud below: whoooh oooohhhhaaaa. That made John laugh out loud into his mask. Then the whale cleared its throat with a huge breath and spout of water, like a small fireworks display - and thrashed its tail.

John swam back along the whales body, until ahead of a giant mottled white flipper, which he held gently for a moment expecting a backlash that never came, then John propelled himself forward meeting with the whale's left eye. The eye seemed to follow him, blinking twice. John sensed the animal studying him appreciatively. He looked deep into the dark blue retina and the whale looked back into John’s hazel eyes. John put both hands around the whale’s eye and smiled. He wasn’t sure the whale could focus this close up, but it signaled back with a deep oooohh aahhh eeeethe vibrations of which went right through John's body. 

 Some people believe that whales can communicate telepathically and some humans have the ability to put animals at ease. Whatever it was, John instinctively hummed back, mimicking the whale’s signal. The intelligent creature flapped its tail softly. The pair had made contact, an understanding of sorts. John surfaced again. He knew he’d have to make some kind of temporary bandage to stem the blood loss. He quickly climbed up the Navigator’s lowered diving platform, going into the galley. 

“There’s a gash about a metre long, we’ll have to make a makeshift bandage, then try to get some professional help.” 

Dan nodded. “The sharks have bunked off. I think the blood from the one you wounded did the trick.” 

“Of course,” replied John. "You should have seen the nets. No wonder the sharks were waiting. Another day and the whale would have drowned anyway. No risk to them then."

John pulled off several one and a half meter strips of an especially sticky reinforced general purpose tape, which came in reels 200mm wide for emergency hull repairs. He lapped one over the other at the edges by about 50mm, until he’d achieved a width of some 400mm. He repeated this making two bandages. Then he rummaged about in the cupboards, coming out with a roll of greaseproof paper, which he unrolled over the upward facing adhesive patch, tore off, then rolled up the patch, securing it temporarily with an elastic band that was handy in a draw.

“Nice one skip.” John winked back. 

“What antibiotics have we got,” said John hopefully.

“You must be joking, Dan replied.”

Both men were now thinking hard. They carried a medical chest, but on this scale, nothing was suitable. Two rolls of lint were then unfolded and two tubes of Germoline squeezed onto one surface, then the other lint strip laid over the top to make a soft cream sandwich. This too was rolled up.

"Okay, that's the bandages but they will soon come adrift. We need a sheet and some rope." 

 John looked at Dan for feedback. None came. Instead, Dan went forward and pulled up his bunk. John following Dan's lead rummaged in a storage locker for some thin coiled rope. The two men met with a smile in the rear cockpit, Dan brandishing a sheet and John some rope. There was no need to speak. John began reeling out the rope.

"What do you think, 6 meter lengths." 

"Plenty." replied Dan. John cut four lengths, which Dan tied to each corner of his sheet.  They then folded the sheet neatly and wound the rope ends around it.

“I need a bag with a strap,” said John raising his eyebrows.

Dan went into his cabin and came back with a large nylon fabric computer case covered in bright graphics, still emptying the pockets of accessories. It had a long strap.

“That’ll do, ta.”

"The sacrifices I’ve made for this project.” He was only joking.

“Thanks Dan, I’ll make it up to you.”

“Don’t be daft,” said Dan grinning, “anything to help a whale in distress.”

But John knew Dan was fond of this case. He adjusted the strap to full length and put it over his left shoulder. Then he put the rolled up sheet into the base, and the two bandage rolls on top, which just accommodated the first aid adequately.

“Keep a sharp lookout will you - just in case,” said John, checking his air contents gauge, as he exited the galley and disappeared down the platform steps, stopping for a few seconds for a scan of the horizon to check the ocean for danger, before jumping into the briny. Even though he knew about the shark blood theory, one can’t be too careful.

The bubbles dissipated as John surfaced and headed to the whale, now floating still on the surface, sucking air and exhaling noisily every now and then. John duck dived to the left eye, again making visual contact for about twenty seconds. He pointed to the bag, holding it up, as if asking for permission to proceed, then pointed to the whale’s back. The whale breathed noisily like a patient in a hospital that knew treatment would hurt, but making no effort to stop John. He took his chances laughing inwardly at the sounds coming from the animal. He flippered up to the whales fin and climbed onto it, then carefully pulled himself onto the whales back well behind the hemorrhaging gash, using the fin as a step. The whale remained immobile, which he took as a sign that it was safe to proceed.

The wound looked angry and painful, though it was a clean cut, it was still bleeding profusely, which made him shudder. He had no time to check the wound. John took out the first rolled up bandage and laid it out sticky side up for size. It covered the full length of the injury with about twenty centimeters on either side. Two bandages overlapping would be only just wide enough. He flipped the bandage and applied it to one side of the wound, at which point the whale let out a wail of pain and thrashed its tail and flippers.

“Steady boy.”

John patted the whale making soothing noises. Without hesitation he then unrolled the second bandaged and applied it quickly, just in case the whale turned. Once again the whale let out a low groan, then as the soothing cream got to work, it stopped its movements and trumpeted an involuntary sigh. John gently smoothed the overlap and edges, talking all the while to reassure the lone animal he meant no harm. These gestures might have seemed insignificant but the end result was that the whale had decided that this human was a friend.

Now came the tricky part, John pulled out the rolled up sheet and uncoiled the rope ends. He laid the sheet  over the center of the bandaged wound and unrolled it to left and to right until two rope ends dangled down on either side of the whale. He then dived into the sea and grabbed the ropes on one side, swimming to meet the two ropes dangling on the other side. He then looped the ropes together under the whales throat to make a knot, pulling as hard as he dared without distressing the whale.

"Hold in there buddy," said John to the whale as he again climbed the whale's flipper to check the sheet had not slipped. He gently scrambled onto the whales back. Miraculously, the sheet had stayed in place over the bandage, making it look secure - but for how long. It looked for all the world like the whale was wearing a scarf.

John dismounted and swam back down to the whale’s eye and waved. He then grasped the huge white and grey patterned flipper in both hands and rubbed it, which was the closest he could come to shaking hands. The whale seemed to respond with a short but tuneful blast, then groaned again long and wistfully. John knew the whale was not well. They needed an expert and quickly.



A humpback whale stikes a blow for anti whaling - The $Billion Dollar Whale movie


Blueplanet Universal Holdings Ltd., invites scriptwriters to use the Kulo Luna story as the basis for script submissions. Please email bluefish@bluebird-electric.net for confirmation of permission to use the names and characters in the novel.





The UN's International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled that the Japanese government must halt its whaling program in the Antarctic. It finally agreed with Australia, which had presented the case in May 2010. Australia’s case claimed that the Japanese whaling program was not for scientific research as claimed by Tokyo, arguing that the program was commercial whaling in disguise. A score of other countries have condemned Japan for the practice, yet it took 4 years for UN’s ICJ to pass its verdict.

The court's decision is considered legally binding. Reading out the verdict, Presiding Judge Peter Tomka said the court had decided, by 12 votes to four, that Japan should withdraw all permits and licenses for whaling in the Antarctic and refrain from issuing any new ones. It said Japan had caught some 3,600 Minke whales since its current program began in 2005, but the scientific output was limited. Japan said it would abide by the decision but added it "regrets and is deeply disappointed by the decision". Japan had argued that the suit brought by Australia was an attempt to impose its cultural norms on Japan. Japan signed up to a moratorium on whaling in 1986, but continued whaling in the north and south Pacific under provisions that allowed for scientific research. Norway and Iceland still reject the provision and continued commercial whaling.




Whale sharks tolerate divers, but will occasionally bump into a careless swimmer.










Wikipedia Whale_Shark

National Geographic fish whale shark




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