Humanity is exalted not because we are so far above other living creatures, but because knowing them well elevates the very concept of life. E.O. Wilson, 1984

7 Aug 2013

Whale Watching: Philip Hoare

Beginning his Odyssey with 2008's "Leviathan or, The Whale", Philip Hoare has come to be known as the UK's leading cetacean cultural attaché. In his text, radio and television pieces, he weaves historical titbits of merchant naval hunters, with esoteric ethical theory of niche marine biologists, to paint a vivid picture which harps back to the foundings of Victorian natural history. Herman Melville's rich prose and tales of white whales are heavily felt, in addition to the themes of the industialisation of nature and other darker shades of unknown underwater worlds. But it his emotional investment in the subject which makes reading his books a delight, no more so than when diving into the deep seas of the Azores to swim with sperm whales:

"Suddenly, their number is dramatically swollen: a huge female, with an additional two calves, twirling around to appear out of the turquoise gloom. I sing to myself as I'm caught up in the crowd; I've never shared the water with so many whales. There are whales across the entirety of my vision; wall-to-wall whales wending this way and that; perpendicular, horizontal, vertical columns in the sea. More than ever, their subtle colours shine through the water; the filtered light playing on their backs, dancing on their sides. Only something so huge could be so elegant; they move more delicately because of, rather than inspite of their mass.

The mother looks at me serenely, perhaps aware of her power, while her brood, encouraged by the protection of her flanks; peer as curiously at me as I peer at them. Then she decides it's timeto move on. Gathering her charges together, she takes off into the blue, with barely perceptible acceleration. I'm left treading empty water, surrounded only by ocean." The Sea Inside, Philip Hoare, 2013.

1 Aug 2013

My Great-Grandma's Garden

And that night we ate like kings. This could be added to a series of snaps from my family summer holidays: my great-grandfather's honey (he's gone but his hives live on), my maternal cousin's munster (a particularly pungent but delicious French cheese, matured in a cousin's hay barn), and my neighbour's river trout (poached like Huckleberry Finn, but by a 76 year old).