Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Haley Reading Group: Sarah Schweitzer’s “Chasing Bayla”

[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2015)]

Cynthia A. Campbell

Sarah Schweitzer’s article “Chasing Bayla” focuses on the dangers of right whales in their encounters with humans and unsafe fishing practices. Schweitzer highlights scientist Dr. Michael Moore’s quest for ethical treatment of endangered and injured right whales. Ultimately, the article speaks to the intersecting journey of Dr. Moore and Bayla.

Schweitzer’s discussion of Dr. Moore’s struggle to provide medical treatment for right whales was especially enlightening. At one point, Schweitzer notes that “he wanted to sedate a free-swimming whale…to remove ropes entangling it” (237). This point illustrates the desperation and urgency required to treat whales in their natural habitats using necessary extraordinary tactics.

What did you find most fascinating or interesting about the article? Why?

39 comments:

Sable M. said...

Upon first reading I found it interesting that they are called right whales and that they can swim entangled with rope for months, sometimes even years, and it seems that many of the whales were killed more by hunting than getting caught. It was pretty interesting to see that Moore was noted as a whale coroner as having that much knowledge on whales is cool, but the fact that a title like that exists is not. Moore's lasting dedication and emotion towards whales was astounding to follow, he was/is very invested in the wellbeing of marine life and that is something not much seen anymore.

Linda H. said...

Linda H.

What I sound most interesting about this article was the intense hunting of the right whales done by colonial people. The text reads "On a single day in January of 1700, colonists killed 29 right whales off the Cape [Cod Bay]. (pg.227)" 200 years later the thousand of right whales that used to live in the North Atlantic had been drastically reduced to only about 100. I can't comprehend how people can be so greedy that they would hunt a species close to the point of extinction. Its also sad because these whales weren't harming anyone. If these whales were dangerous predatory beasts that went out of their way to destroy ships then I could understand the need to kill them. However, this is just another example of humans ruining the planet for their own benefit.

Anonymous said...

The most interesting part of this article, to me, was the description of Picasso and Bayla which started on page 230. Schweitzer described how the mother helped Bayla take her first breath and how she protected Bayla, while they were migrating, from the sharks. The author went into depth about how these whales travel at 60 miles per hour to reach their destination where there is more food for the whales. I think this was interesting because it tells the reader how the beginning of the whale's life is. The story makes it easy to relate to with how parents are to their children.
Cecelia S.

Thomas Siganga said...

What shocked me was that humans were able to whittle down the thousands of whales that were originally on the Coast of the U.S to just 450. This only escalated as the hunting practices of the right whales were later revealed. I understand the abundance of the population, but one thing that never changes is wanting too much to a point it ruins the lives for others. I cannot help but support Moore's dedication to the right Whales throughout the story. It is just hard to understand how people go about things not realizing how much damage is being done. An example would be just the environment in general. People are usually ignorant of huge problems due to wanting to fulfill their own wants.

Thomas S.

Jovahna Williams said...

I found it most interesting that people were able to whittle down the number of whales to just 450. This happens to lots of animals on earth and is still currently happening even in parts of the world where the protection of animals is ongoing. The escalation of the near extinction of the right whales is jus one example of the ongoing problem of the harm being done to animals for sport or money.
Jovahna W.

LaTrina B said...

I found it interesting how dedicated this particular man was to saving whales. In the reading, Moore made rifle filled with sedatives just to save a whale's life. There are not too many people out there that are that dedicated to helping animals and I really found that interesting. Also, it was fascinating to me that mother whales act just like human mothers. "Right whale mothers are known to swim frantically for days after the death of a calf..." (page 230). When right whale mothers lose their calf, they still continuously search for them not knowing that it has passed on. That is just a mother's first instinct and it intrigued me to know that they did that.

Anonymous said...

I found it interesting how people were trying to save animals, especially the whales. Many people don't really care to save animals so it was very interesting to read. It was also interesting to read that the right whales were near extinction but they were saved.

- Kennedy M.

Anonymous said...

It was very interesting to learn that "oil from right whale blubber helped propel the Colonial
economy," yet the right whales did not go extinct (227). It was also saddening and interesting to learn that "right whale mothers are known to swim frantically for days after the death of a calf" as the offspring is not be there side (230). It was interesting to see how whales also share the sadness of loss that humans experience too.

Samantha A.

Anonymous said...

What I found the most interesting was how dedicated Mr. Moore was to saving the whales. I enjoyed reading about his trials and errors in trying to find a way to keep the whales from being entangled in the ropes and also in sedating them so that they could cut the ropes. The way the article was written allowed me to feel the sadness that he was feeling.

Marina T.

Anonymous said...

What I found most interesting, about the article, was how whales like Bayla keep on swimming and keep on trying to survive in the ocean even when they are in so much pain. In the article, Bayla was once found emancipated and hauling a rope more than ten times her length. "Her body was cut open in places, as though by cheese wire." (pg.226) Yet, she endured the pain and kept going. Even when the biologists tried to cut the rope and free her, she was unrelenting and persistent on getting away "safely". It was interesting to read about her push for survival even while on the brink of death. But as much as it was interesting, it was also heartbreaking. I'm still in tears as I write this.
~Lillien W.

Anonymous said...

What I found most interesting, about the article, was how whales like Bayla keep on swimming and keep on trying to survive in the ocean even when they are in so much pain. In the article, Bayla was once found emaciated and hauling a rope more than ten times her length. "Her body was cut open in places, as though by a cheese wire." (pg.226) Yet, she endured the pain and kept going. Even when the biologists tried to cut the rope and free her, she was unrelenting and persistent on getting away "safely". It was interesting to read about her push for survival, even while on the brink of death. But as much as it was interesting, it was also heartbreaking. I'm still in tears as I write this.
~Lillien W.

Anonymous said...

I found it interesting how on page 233 in the article “it says how right whales are “megatron creatures who could dive 600 feet, survive on food the size of the grain of rice, and bend their enormous selves to scratch their ears with their flukes-and yet they were regularly succumbing to something so prosaic as fishing rope” this is interesting because it just shows how such a big species is killed by something so simple as a rope.

-Gianna T

Anonymous said...

The most interesting thing I noticed in this story was the fact about how many whales have been poached since humans first came in contact with them. "Saving just two female whales a year could stabilize a population that humans had driven down to just 450 from the teeming thousands that once greeted settlers to the New World" (225). This is not an uncommon theme in recent history, due to the booming industry of hunting and selling pretty much all animals of the past centuries, many other species most people will never know about have been driven to extinction.

Jason A.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy learning about whales and everything that they go through so I found this passage really interesting. I think it is really admirable of the people trying to save whales because so many people have captured whales just to make a profit off of them. I also found it interesting to learn about the mothers swimming frantically when they lose their calfs because I already knew that mother whales have a deep connection to their calfs and they go through a serious time of depression when their babies are lost or taken from them. It was just interesting to learn more about what they go through but also very sad at the same time.


-Jasmine D.

Fontez M. said...

What interested me the most was that the numbers of whales decreased so much. Whales are huge and much more faster and stronger than humans, I wouldn't think that we would be able to kill them off so easily. I know that humans developed weapons and tools to kill whales but I just wouldn't expect it to work so well.

Dasmin W. said...

The most interesting thing I found from this article was the relationship between a mommy whale and child. The author goes into details about the events of Bayla and her mother stating when Bayla was born until she had to be on her own. It was intriguing to know that like most human babies, baby whales also cling onto their mothers during the first couple months of her life and that she learns how to do things like swimming and hunting by observing and getting teach by her mother. I had no idea that baby whales and babies have so many things in common.

Gabrielle H said...

The part that stood out to me the most in Sarah Schweitzer's article was when the team in Maine found a right whale tangled in a fishing rope. This stood out to me because they displayed such a large contrast between right whales being these huge strong creatures that could "dive 6 feet deep" and "Survive on food the grain of rice"(pg 233). However, they were crumbling to something as simple as a fishing rope. The gruesome details of the cuts and scrapes on the whale helped me imagine the immense damage a rope can have on an enormous animal. This crucial detail was not thoroughly explained previously in the article when they discussed whales being trapped in nets, so reading the necropsy report on the impact in this part of the article was eye opening and interesting.

Isaiah J. said...

I was surprised at how fishing nets can bring such gruesome deaths to whales. The way it was described so specifically made it feel much more real and disturbing than it would have otherwise. It made me feel genuinely sad for the whales and glad that there are people like Moore working to stop this from happening.

Caleb Abernathy said...

In this passage, there were two aspects that interested me a great deal.

One of those aspects being the amount of time and devotion Moore put into the right whales. Even after seeing some rather horrific incidents involving the whales, he still persevered to try and better the species' situation as a whole. An example of a horrific incident is, "The water around her turned a frosty white. She was bleeding and vomiting. There would be no getting close enough to deliver an antibiotic." (233). Even after experiences such a situation that haunted him, he still wanted to help the species instead of giving it up.

Also, I was very intrigued to read the horrific effects the wire and netting can have on the whales. For example, "A grill net had sliced a 4.6-food-wide laceration across her back and carved off a swath of blubber. The rope had a deformed her bones and impacted the way she swam." (234). The amount of impact something as minute as a net can have on an entire species of animals is outstanding to me.

-Caleb A

Anonymous said...

The thing I found the most interesting is the devastating impact humans had on the whale population. The drastic reduction of a population will lead to consequences we are unable to account for, which could lead to more issues down the road for the human population. I think Moores ideas are necessary to bring awareness to the destruction that is not only happening in the ocean but everywhere around the globe.




Alexis R.

Caulder Brantley said...

What I found most interesting about this writing was Michael Moores dedication to these animals and the toll that baylas death took on him. Before reading this I knew Michael Moore for his countless documentaries but not for his whale activism. Reading this story was gut wrenching and conflicting because I don't want the whales to be in pain but i also understand how those lines the whales get caught up in feeds someones family. Even though I have a clear understanding of the conflicting nature of the problem at hand I was shocked to see how brazen they author was with the lack of effort put forth to save the whales. I think Schweitzer put it best when she said "Right whales were venturing into waters humans had claimed for fishing,and they were dying ,like roadkill"(234). This quote struck a cord with me because humans often acknowledge our impact on land animals but not on the marine life. I just the quote was powerful, well put and the moment I read it i knew I was going to use it. Another quote I liked was "Moore always thought that if dogs walked around the city of Boston with bleeding lacerations,people would become outraged and demand the source of injury be stopped"(242). This was another powerful quote to me because it really hits on how we as humans become desensitized to our surroundings, actions, and the impact of our actions until they directly affect us or something we love.

Caulder Brantley

Phoenix Johnson said...

Bayla not dying from being in entangled ropes was very fascinating. This whale is pulling fleets of rope while in so much pain. Knowing my knowledge on how human waste such as plastic and other nonbiodegradble objects kill over 1,000 marine animals yearly, I was amazed she survived for so long. With that I would assume the whale would die from the, but instead her chances of dying was from a human. Schweitzer wrote humans made the population of these whales go from thousands to 450 (225). Therefore, it amazes me that the passage tells me about how humans affect animals with our trash and the fact to physically kill them ourselves.

Anonymous said...

As almost always humans have had a negative impact on another species. However, I do admire Moores ideas to bring awareness to the problem and destruction that is happening. Humans seems to be a greedy species by nature and I wonder how many other species will go extinct before we get our act together.
Breann Walton

Anonymous said...

Kami Douglas
While there were many interesting points made within this article, I was most intrigued and heart broken because of the amount of destruction that humans have brought to the right whales species. Humans are potentially putting the right whales at risk for extinction. According to the text,"humans had driven down to just 450 from the teeming thousands that once greeted settlers to the New World"(225). This shows that humans are taking the lives of right whales at a dangerously high rate.
I also found the way that humans hunt these right whales disturbing. The texted described how the ropes would "carve" into the skin of the right whales, causing them pain. The selfishness of the world can potentially be the cause of the extinction of the right whales and that is heart breaking.

Justin Jubert said...

The thing I found most interesting is the effect humans have on whales and other marine life. Besides ropes being used for terroristic hangings of African Americans in the United States, ropes usually have a neutral connotation. On pages 233 and 234, Sarah talks about how harmful ropes are on whales, which angered me because many humans do not care about animal lives. She explained that the ropes restrained and hurt the whale's bones, causing bleeding. This article prompted me to open my eyes to real problems that are often overlooked.
-Justin Jubert

Anonymous said...

I found the survivor instinct of the Right Whale to be admirable, yet devastating. The thought of this mammal suffering days is sad and angers me, but learning from the article that these whales can swim around entangled for months and even years before succumbing; I was overcome with extreme sympathy and grief. No animal should suffer this way! I also found the relationship of mother whales and their babies intriguing. Because they are mammals, this relationship is so similar to the human experience. Thank God for people like Moore who advocate to save whales from these dangers.
-Miles W

lulu127491 said...

What i found the most interesting was the fact that humans were able to get the amount of whales down to 450. To me that is unbelievable and very irresponsible. The way we as humans "carve" into the whales skin is despicable. I don't think that this should be allowed at all. I am proud of how determined this man is to save the right whales.

Jasmine Strong said...

For me it wasn't really about the article being interesting but more so heart breaking. Personally I love animals and I think that anyone that hunts or harms any animal is a disgusting human being. That's why people like Moore really inspire me because they take the initiative to help these animals. The world needs to have more people like this to fight for the animals like the Right Whale that can't defend themselves. These mammals fight their hardest to stay alive in nature alone, so they shouldn't have to worry about humans coming in and making it harder for them to survive.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting how people don’t like hunting but still use animals for experiments. Just because you put them back in their habitat doesn’t mean you aren’t throwing off their rhythm or leaving them traumatized. I like the idea of breeding but everything does not need to be so explorative with humans. I also like how they gave us dr. moore’s story on how he came to be an animal enthusiast. Ronald A.

Unknown said...

Alexis H.

What I found most interesting is how he felt after all those years. He provided for his family and made many great accomplishments, but still had an urge to go out and try to help/protect the right whales. It was more so the fact that he knew he had to do what NEEDED to be done for him before he could do what he wanted to do. This inspired me and opened my eyes to understanding that I have to keep pushing through with life and I will have to put somethings I want to do on hold. It also taught me that I should not give up on my dreams because one day it’ll be too late.

Anonymous said...

The most interesting portion of the text was the section that addresses the decrease in numbers of whales on the coasts of the United States. Due to human involvement with hunting, in a relatively short amount of time, the number of whales roaming in their habitats had been cut down to hundreds, when it used to be thousands. This was so shocking because I didn't even realize that there was a market for whales. I didn't know that whale hunting was a practice. It's also appalling because the whales are not putting any species in particular harm, especially not humans. I think that if these hunters would take a step back to realize that they are doing harm to the oceanic ecosystem, there is room for progress. Hannah C.

Anonymous said...

The most interesting aspect of this text was that humans were able to cause the number of whales to drop from thousands to 450 (225). I found this very disturbing and scary the way that they are hunted. In addition, I found Moore to be a very inspiring individual and his dedication to protecting and defending these species truly moving. His dedication makes one want to take action.

-Nadira Ellis

Rachael Gray said...

I love how the author changed the subject and setting right after he shot the sedative. We don't know whether it worked or not and it is frusturating, but it also makes me want to keep reading. It seems impossible that there is only, one whale born some years. After reading this article, I realize that whales have some very human-like behavior. For instance, they care a lot about their children and are depressed and frantic when they die or get lost. It was so depressing that Bayla still died from rope after they thought they saved her. I couldn't believe it. At least he found a way to save the whales though.
-Rachael Gray

Whitney Kriener said...

One of the most interesting things that I read in this article would have to be the story of Bayla because it is not very often that you hear a story of cows or of their family.

Unknown said...

What is interesting but not surprising is the fact that humans out of greed,rapidly reduced the population of right whales. The mere fact of killing 29 in ine single day bt just one group of people who documented it and how much this was likely happening with other undocumented groups shows the lack of care or respect of the life of that species (227). Andrew H.

Anonymous said...

Fatima Bashir
Reading all of the gruesome details of what can happen to whales in fishing nets really opened my eyes. For a second it made me think about all the damage that humans are doing to this earth and helpless creatures. Then, reading about people like Moore give me hope for what the future can be like for other animals that are nearing extinction.

Anonymous said...

I thought that it was very interesting when humans hunted right whales because the whales made it easy to be pursed by coming to the humans(227). In the past, it was sad to read that right whales were killed by the hundreds. The right whales helped the economy in many ways that benefited homes, stores, and businesses.

The right whales became the rarest animals on Earth. This made it so that the right whales were protected from hunting. This was one topic that I did not know before reading, which made it interesting.

Brian G.

David D said...

The most fascinating part of the article to me was on page 227-228 when it was stated that, “Among whales, rights are particularly prone to getting caught in the gear, with 83 percent of those tracked by scientists bearing scars from entanglement.” This means that 5 in every 6 whales have been entangled in fishing nets from unsafe practices. Thinking about how frighteningly common it is for whales to have entanglement scars, I wonder just how many didn’t make it. It’s a truly sad thing to think about and there needs to be change.
- David D.

Anonymous said...

What I found to be interesting about the text was "Oil from right whale blubber helped propel the Colonial economy, lighting homes and stores and creating wealth and prosperity." Since the start of hunting of whales in the 1700's, humans used the blubber the prosper their economy, but it went overboard and ended up nearly extincting the whales, which was really bad. So the start of hunting the whales wasn't bad at first, but ended up badly.