60th Birthday Whale Watching Tour a Success!

I done seen whales!

But you don’t get to see them unless you click below the fold. The pictures are so awesome, so breathtaking, that I fear you will be awed and breath-taked to the point that you’ll pass out and fall onto a smaller, less massive bystander — possibly a child or a dog.

Meanwhile, content yourself with this picture of an extremely rare bird known as a “sea gull.” (Click to embiggen.)

Okay, I lied about the sea gull. If you look in a maritime dictionary under the word “ubiquitous,” there will be a picture of a gull. The damned things are EVERYWHERE.

I’ve been assured this is a juvenile Black-backed gull, the largest gull on Earth. They’re about the size of a pug dog, only with a greater wingspan. (See the ID thingies on his legs? Prolly has something to do with Homeland Security.)

I always marvel at marine birds. How cool is it to possess a body that not only flies, but also serves as a small paddleboat? There were plenty of raucous, screaming gulls on shore in Gloucester, Mass., but even fifteen miles out in the ocean, we continued to see random lone gulls just resting on the waves. Ubiquitous.

Anyway, here are the whale pics. Yeah, sorry these aren’t more dramatic. I figure if I go out on whale tours about 5 or 10 times, I might get some really dramatic pics.

But these critters live in the ocean — hell, we don’t even know where they go to have their babies — so they are still damned mysterious. Seeing one AT ALL is a plus, far as I’m concerned.

The biggest one we saw was about 60 feet long, about the size of your average Wal-Mart shopper, only with a blowhole instead of a neck tattoo saying “Delbert and Doreena, 10-17-98.”

The tour boat I was on, from 7 Seas Whale Watch out of Gloucester, I sort of recommend it, sort of don’t. I enjoyed the voyage — 5 hours in all, with about 5 fin whales spotted, one only about 30 feet from the boat — but I really wanted to get a few minutes with the biologist, to ask him some questions. He spent most of his time up in the front of the boat, in a roped-off area. I asked several times if I could talk to him or take a picture of him whale-spotting, but was told no every time. Made me feel like I was an unwelcome bumpkin.

One of my pet theories about endangered wildlife (whales, but not gulls or pug dogs) is that it does not in any way “belong” to human beings.

My old libertarian friend thought everything on earth should be owned by humans, and free market forces would somehow save endangered species or wilderness … if the people who cared about it cared enough to raise the money and BUY it from those who claim it. Having lived among humans, which my friend apparently had not, I thought that was just about the dumb-assiest idea I’d ever heard.

I have a serious problem with people who believe they have the right to turn gorillas into “bush meat” and rhinos into dick pills for brainless rich fuckers. Not to mention Japanese whalers killing these huge ocean wonders for phonied-up “research”. All of it apparently justified by the fact that those of us who love them don’t have the money to buy them back from the users.

MY libertarian idea is that anyone who cares about whales or wolves or desert wildlife has the right to stop those who are killing or using them up. After all, if somebody owns it just by claiming it, my claim to protect it should be just as defensible as theirs to consume it.

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  • Pieter B, FCD

    A few weeks ago we took the oldest granddaughter and her boyfriend on a whale watch out of Long Beach CA. We lucked out bigtime. Several blue whales, one so close we heard it exhale, and we learned that the old cliche “lower than whale shit” is false. It floats, and it’s rather whiffy if you’re downwind. It’s obvious that them critters eat tons of shrimp-like stuff every day.

  • grumpyoldfart

    Happy Birthday. You are now officially “old”.

    Nice photos.

  • Rob

    Very cool Hank. Happy birthday. Make it to New Zealand and I’ll take you whale and dolphin watching using a company that will not make you feel unwelcome. Lots and lots of black backed gulls too.

    I especially liked this:
    “After all, if somebody owns it just by claiming it, my claim to protect it should be just as defensible as theirs to consume it.”

  • Cuttlefish

    Might as well say it here, but off topic:

    Leaving classes Wednesday, on the steps of the building as dozens of undergrads passed by in one direction or the other, I saw (had to look twice to be sure) someone wearing a “Citizen of Earth” T-shirt. Now, I am well aware that the odds are against someone having created a T-shirt design for you in the brief time since you changed your blog title, but just in case this student was evidence that your plot to take over the world is succeeding, I thought I’d report on it.

    • Hank Fox

      Dammit, they were supposed to hold those back until The Takeover.

      You just can’t get good minions these days.

  • pahapillon

    Happy birthday Hank!

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/biodork Brianne Bilyeu

    Seems like a great way to spend a birthday, Hank! Thanks for sharing the photos.

  • kennypo65

    Happy Birthday,Hank. I was in Hawaii back in February, 95 and I had tickets to the Pro Bowl, but I went whale watching instead because I’ve seen a football game.

  • carolw

    Happy Birthday! And I’m jealous. I’ve only seen whales’ little cousins (dolphins), and that was a thrill. I hope to go whale-watching some day.

  • Kilian Hekhuis

    Great photos Hank, drewling with jealousy here. At least I have a good idea about what to do for my 60th birthday :)

    • Hank Fox

      I want to go back and do it again, and soon. (I probably wouldn’t use this same company.)

      Some of the people who told me about their own experiences elsewhere said humpbacks would sometimes come right up to the boat and curiously *LOOK* at the people. THAT’s what I want to see.

      • Kilian Hekhuis

        Heh, there’s always room for an even better experience :). After you’ve seen them look at you, you want to go swimming with them :).

        • Hank Fox

          I already DO want that. Tell me: Is it possible?

          • Kilian Hekhuis

            Apparently, it is (first two Google links for “swimming with whales”, there are plenty more).

  • http://sciencenotes.wordpress.com/ Markita Lynda—damn climate change!

    Swimming with whales is not recommended.

    OTOH, I read of some place in Newfoundland where, in the past, the whales would come up to a cliff and boys would let themselves down on ropes to run on the whales’ backs (while hanging on to a rope). The whales apparently liked the tickle.

  • http://sciencenotes.wordpress.com/ Markita Lynda—damn climate change!
  • brucecoppola

    Some of the people who told me about their own experiences elsewhere said humpbacks would sometimes come right up to the boat and curiously *LOOK* at the people.

    A Minke whale did that on a tour my late wife and I took out of Saguenay in Quebec. Rolled on it’s side and waved a fin as if to say “howdy”. The guide and everyone else were up on the bow of the boat looking at distant spouts; I yelled “Allez, allez, un baleine!” (we were the only non-Francophones on the tour) while pointing down over the rail.

  • eidolon

    If you can snorkel, there is a trip with just snorkeling for a week with humpback whales. The trip is longer but it also increases your chances for a great encounter.


    I’ve been a couple of dive trips with this operation but have yet to do this. My most notable encounter with a whale was while diving off Kauai – could not see the male singing, but you felt the song with your whole body. I can recommend the experience quite highly.

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com Gretchen

    In defense of your libertarian friend…people are going to go on claiming stuff as their own property whether we like it or not, and that includes habitats and the animals which live in them. So if you want to protect the habitats and the animals from those people, then acquiring ownership of the habitats and animals for yourself is one damn effective way to do it. After all, if you own something, you can sic the police on/sue the hell out of people who try to mess with it.

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