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Dead Humpback Whale Calf

A dead humpback whale calf washed up on the beach just north of Half Moon Bay, California a couple of days ago.  I was driving up Highway 1 at dusk yesterday evening when I spotted a group of about fifteen people clustered on the side of the highway, facing the ocean and holding their cell phones out in front of them.  Since it was a foggy evening and already getting dark, I figured they were photographing the whale.  I stopped to have a look as well as to photograph the whale myself, since this is–thank goodness!–not an every day occurence.  Not since an adult humpback named Humphrey famously entered the San Francisco Bay (in 1985 and again in 1990) has a whale–living or dead–gotten this much attention in the Bay Area.

I had very mixed feelings observing the crowd of onlookers, who were posing their children for photo ops in front of the unfortunate whale.  On one hand, it was but a decaying corpse–still a strange photo setting for children, in my opinion–and on the other it was the remains of a magnificent ocean creature that died well before its time.  I couldn’t help feeling that many people’s actions were downright disrespectful.

I’m willing to bet that very few people in that crowd realized that they were standing near the site of a whaling station that processed hundreds or thousands of whales in the 1800’s.  Whaling is not an activity most people associate with eco-conscious California.

In this image, I chose to not include the spectators, but I deliberately lined up the whale with Pillar Point in the background to give the image a sense of place.

The tide came in over night and the whale carcass washed back out to sea.  This morning it was gone.


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