Monday, January 16 , 2017, 12:50 pm | Fair 60º


Captain’s Log: ‘New’ Ancient Whale Breeds Curiosity

How wildly cool is it that a whale thought to be extinct for 2 million years suddenly showed up alive, except for being dead?! Along with a lot of folks, I read an article about a pygmy right whale beaching (in New Zealand as best as I can tell, though that part wasn’t readily clear). I’m doubting that it was the last of its breed, so more are swimming about out there.

At first I had to laugh about the fact that a critter more than 20 feet long and swimming the open ocean and surfacing regularly for air can go undetected and presumed extinct for the last 2 million years. Wow, we know so little about our seas and the critters that live there!

I’m enjoying the photos and news from the Mars vehicle, and I have no problem with exploring the red planet, but I believe we need to spend a lot more of our time, money and energy exploring our blue planet.

We can learn more about our neighbor critters and how to be better neighbors. Wouldn’t it be great to figure out why some sharks don’t get cancer? We can also learn more about ourselves because there is an awful lot of our culture and history under the waves. I recall hearing about a place called Atlantis, and somehow that pygmy right whale gives me renewed hope that Atlantis existed and we can find it.

So back to this pygmy right whale. They figure it is more closely related to the bowhead whales than the baleen whales, such as humpbacks and blues. Our whale’s skull most closely resembles that of an ancient family of whales called cetotheres, who were supposed to have gone extinct a couple million years ago after making their world debut about 15 million years ago.

I can’t help but wonder what other surprises are out there. Do we have living dinosaur-era monsters in the depths? Ya know, I’d be willing to wager a gold doubloon on it. Better yet, I want to go find out. Anyone want to go?

When you consider how big and how wild and how deep the oceans are, maybe it really is easier to look for signs of life on Mars than find a 20-foot whale in our open oceans. Somehow I have this wicked vision of the Mars exploratory vehicle stopping dead in its tracks in front of a whale fossil sticking up out of the red dust.

Ummm, I sincerely want to thank all of you for putting up with my whacky sense of humor and my amazement at the world in which we live.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit to learn more about the organization and how you can help.

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