Agate Beach, with Blue Whale

The picture was in the news: a rare, endangered Blue Whale has washed up on a beach near Bolinas. Marine biologists inspected it and deetermined that it must have been hit by a ship.

It’s very sad that such a great creature has been killed. On the other hand, I never even knew that they inhabited our neighborhood. And now we have a chance to see what one looks like up close.

My old friend Richard calls me out of the blue, and proposes an outing. It’s only a little more than an hour to drive there from my house. Off we go.

A scenic drive to Bolinas, an even more scenic 1/4-mile trot from the parking lot to the beach. How convenient that the whale landed on an easily-accessed park.

The intact whale we saw in the news photos a couple days ago is no longer intact. In the interest of research, scientists have carved away big layers of blubber and taken some of the internal organs for study. (At least, I hope that’s the reason so much of the body is deformed). Other parts have been strewn around the beach by forces unknown: sofa-cushion sized slabs of blubber, chunks of baleen the size of car radiators. (Click on each image to enlarge). Some of these are remarkable studies in texture and design.

We take the opportunity to explore the relatively deserted north end of the beach. Here, the erosive force of the winter storms has dropped a whole row of trees from the mesa above. This is not driftwood, but the sea claiming tribute from the shore. Some of the chunks of wood have been on the beach long enough to take on some fascinating textures and shapes. Another study in sculpture.

The death of so many trees resonates with the death of the whale. Both are great, peaceful creatures. But of course the whale is more of a rarity. I don’t know how old she was, but she must have heard many songs that we will never hear, and her song will not be heard again. Mourn for the loss of this great creature.

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