Farewell Spits Whale Beachings: When Facts Meet Fiction
Sad to say, I found myself trying to keep up with the latest news about this year’s Farewell Spits whale beachings. Farewell Spits is an area of New Zealand that is considered to be a “whale trap”. According to one comment from: Jo Halliday of Whale Rescue, “The whales are swimming through the Cook Straight, and if they veer off into Farewell Spit, they start using their sonar echolocation to get directions but then they might disorientate and get lost because they can’t find a way out.”
This statement was used to suggest a possible reason for the constant issue of mass whale beachings over the years. Another theory suggests that seismic blasting is the culprit. With reference to the recent 2017 beachings, one report stated that: “The largest seismic testing ship in the world, the Amazon Warrior, is currently searching for oil off the East Coast of New Zealand. It operates by blasting airguns in the water and a report commissioned by environmental group Greenpeace found it can stress and even deafen whales.”
The current whale beaching story is interesting enough on it’s own merits, but the whole topic of whales being beached in the Farewell Spits area is of particular interest to me as an author. My first novel: “Experimenting With Murder” is actually a fantasy sci-fi adventure, set on a secluded island in New Zealand. The fantasy element of the book deals with a discovery of mermaids being found on an isolated beach, around the time they were doing sonar testing. The whole premise for the mermaids being lost and marooned was built on the idea that underwater blasting damaged their ears and disoriented them.
Dangers of Blasting
Some skeptics don’t agree that the “whale trap” and “blasting” theories are the reason for the whale beachings. The article: Busting the whale stranding myths discusses these and other possibilities that many experts often point to as plausible reasons.
When the problem of whale beachings first got my attention, I personally sided with the idea that the beachings really could be related to blasting. The danger of underwater blasting always seemed to make a lot of sense to me. I heard them mention it on a special Animal Planet program. The whole reason I even watched the program is because it talked about the possible discovery of mermaids.
The program actually brought attention to a number of different issues and it also got my writing juices flowing. There was much controversy around underwater sonar testing and the possible connection to whale beachings. But while experts were doing research to try and explain the mystery of the whale beachings, they encountered another mystery; a mysterious sound.
My Book Inspiration
In a recent post, I shared what my inspiration for writing this first novel was, and I go on to talk about the Animal Planet program. Notice what I mention in this brief excerpt, as it relates to the possible reason for whale beachings.
According to the program, in 2007, a research team heard a sound that has so far, only been identified as “the bloop”. They recorded the sound while they were investigating a series of mass whale beachings. The program implied that reputable government agencies pointed to this unidentified sound as proof of the possible existence of mermaids.
I started the idea of my story built on the premis that if SONAR testing is endangering whales, dolphins and other known marine life, maybe it doesn’t stop there. What if other equally unique (though not yet discovered) species are also being affected by underwater blasting? That is also why I set the book in New Zealand. Certain locations and other factual details were depicted in the story help to establish a believable setting, while still creating an imaginative environment.
Facts and Fiction
It is no surprise to see facts and fiction come together in such a strange way. The whale beachings are a very real and very sad occurrence. It hurts to know that this huge environmental problem is still occurring and there are still no real answers. As the above-mentioned article indicated, no one really knows for sure why these magnificent creatures continue to stray off course to their death in such a way.
Once again, I take a moment to applaud all the thousands of volunteers who have tried to help over the years so that these whales can make it back to the ocean.