Douglas Chadwick’s penchant for animals, particularly for the whales, is clearly evident in his tale about the survival of the almost extinct Eubalaena glacialis, more commonly known as the right whales. His narrative starts with a description of the mammal as it spins and travels along the Bay of Fundy to feed his readers’ imagination on how this gigantic animal behaves and then follows it with a brief history on how the right whales got its name which prodded for their almost extinction. One of the highlights of his narrative is the relationship of the volunteers, which aim to save the Eubalaena specie, with Calvin, whom they named after the comic character because of the whale’s love for mischief. I was immediately drawn to read the article because of its eye catchy photo and its ear catchy title, Right Whales. However, since this article is written for the National Geographic, expect a couple of technical terms, heavy adjectives for descriptions that would require making your imagination work double time, and a detailed narrative of how the journey to saving these whales started, with emphasis on Calvin’s autobiography. With this in mind, the author most likely wanted to share his experiences to alert citizens who live near the reserves where the whales show up most of the time, the scientific community, most especially whale enthusiasts, and the owners of the commercial fishing and marine transport ships, that something can be done to save the right whale species.
The experiences shared by Chadwick revolve around how scientists are studying these whales in order to help them reproduce more into an acceptable number. The right whales were once hunted down for their oil and baleen which made their numbers dwindle from thousands to just hundreds now. After mentioning the history to explain the cause of their deteriorating number, the author started to mention the research team from Boston’s New England Aquarium and their invaluable research on right whales. Credibility is started to be established in the article as the author starts mentioning the various researchers and programs that he was able to interact with throughout his journey. He mentioned remarks from Amy Knowlton, a researcher from the team and he also recounted his adventure with Scott Kraus, the New England Aquarium’s vice president of research, and Rosalind Rolland, a veterinarian and senior scientist with the aquarium. Here he shares his first hand experience on how these scientists and researchers study the right whales. I deem that a firsthand account of a quest like the one that he talked about will give the readers a feel of what the author went through, it is like reading a fiction book because of his accurate retelling, his passion and excitement as he saw and observed the whales, its as if I was onboard the ship as well.
As soon as his journey starts on board the ship with the research team, the author does not fall into a dreary and mind-numbing story. He tried to interleave facts, some dialogue that he heard firsthand, a description of the whales as he saw them, and the current technology that the researchers used to help identify the whale’s gender, its reproductive state, its general condition, and levels of stress by just scraping DNA off floating whale poop. And the way he delivered his account made me laugh at times, he did not forget to put on a couple of light sentences that are funny to complement the long narrative, amounting to 2,861 words.
The author does not only get on board once, but twice, with a year in between his travels. On his second adventure, he still went with the same researchers, but onto a different place and team to study the southern right whales, where they found their numbers more than the North Atlantic ones. The climax of his story comes as the researchers were dumbfounded as to how the southern whales came to be more in number with less markings and scrapes, and fatter than the North Atlantic ones. However, the answer to preserving wildlife was just under their noses. As the author has put it in his words, it was all just a matter of requiring better protection of critical wintering areas and migration routes.
However, just like all stories, it does not end that easily. The author pointed out that the industries involved in the issue cannot just wave a magic wand and have their routes changed just so the North Atlantic whales can have a brighter future ahead of them. As it was mentioned, this act will require more dispensing of funds for these industries, which, obviously they decline to do. Fortunately, the author does not make the unhappy tone last that long, because he follows this sentence with one that has a potential solution to the problem. He states that scientists can do with saving just two sexually mature females annually from being killed, and this can already make the right whale population increase.
What the author thought as a proper ending for this seven paged article left me wanting for more updates. Although he was able to mention all the ways and means by which people are involving themselves in to help save the right whales, which actually involves a series of steps from seeing a right whale to reporting it to the proper authorities, he regrets to inform his readers that it is a strategy far from being perfect. This conveys that there are things that we can do to save more species from getting endangered, ways by which we never deem to be possible nor we thought can bring about change. But as the author mentions it, nothing can dampen the volunteers’ enthusiasm.
Over-all, I found the article full of facts about the right whales’ history, the way they live, their migratory patterns, the latest technology available for studying them, and thought that it was a handful for just recreational reading. Albeit their were parts that seemed as if I was reading a fiction book with light and funny sentences, I doubt that the article can keep an ordinary high school kid interested. This material gives a detailed account of an experience infused with factual information and can be best recommended for marine life, whales, mammals and wildlife preservation enthusiasts.
Chadwick, D. (2008). Right Whales. Retrieved 10 December 2008 from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/10/right-whales/chadwick-text.html