Walking the Waters


| 8/2/2012 9:49:00 AM


Blue Whale 

This post originally appeared on TomDispatch.

When you go to the mountains, you go to the mountains. When it’s the desert, it’s the desert. When it’s the ocean, though, we generally say that we’re going “to the beach.” Land is our element, not the waters of our world, and that is an unmistakable advantage for any oil company that wants to drill in pristine waters.

Take Shell Oil. Recently, the company’s drill ship, the fabulously named Noble Discoverer, went adrift and almost grounded in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. That should be considered an omen for a distinctly star-crossed venture to come. Unfortunately, few of us are paying the slightest attention.

Shell is getting ready to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean, an ecosystem staggeringly rich in life of every sort, and while it’s not yet quite a done deal, the prospect should certainly focus our minds. But first, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the mind-boggling richness of the life still in our oceans.



Last month began with a once-in-a-lifetime sighting in Monterey Bay, California, startlingly close to shore, of blue whales. Those gigantic mammals can measure up to 100 feet, head-to-tail, and weigh nearly 200 tons—the largest animal by weight ever to have lived on this planet. Yes, even heavier than dinosaurs. The biggest of them, Amphicoelias fragillimus, is estimated to have weighed 122 tons, while the largest blue whale came in at a whopping 195 tons.

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