I was reading an article about a messaging test recently completed in Northern Wales with torches in old Iron Age forts, and it made me think about why whales sing when they migrate, and also, about the transitional fossil find that links whales to wolves, The Blessing of the Animals at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and the recent conclusion that Mayan civilization collapsed because of human destruction. This may not be a natural progression to you, but in writing, I like to find connections among things seemingly without correspondence to prove that we can be close and dear, and we can learn something we already learned before.
Last Saturday, 200 volunteers stood at the summits of 10 hillforts on the Clwydian Range in Cheshire, Flintshire and Wirral, Wales, and successfully signaled each other with torches as if in warning to the community. The longest range was 15.5 miles between Burton Point on the Wirral and Maiden Castle, at Bickerton Hill, Cheshire.
I read once--and used in a series of poems--that male humpback whales sing a song that they pass along to each other, phrase by gradually shifting phrase, using repetition and rhyme, until the song ends sounding completely different from when it began, and then they don't sing it again. The marine biologists who had collected this fascinating information not only did not know where the song originated in the whale's anatomy, they also did not know why the males sang it. Blue whales sing while they migrate because the booming song acts likes a sonar mapping device, throwing back into their brains a picture of the ocean floor.
A few transitional fossils link wolves to hippos, camels, deer, whales and dolphins, and while it took 15 million years for the fish eating, whale eared Pakicetus to lose its hind legs and be whale 35 million years ago, the marine ancestor had already hit the water and held its breath. The limbs left because an embryonic gene called the Sonic Hedgehog, which had been miniaturizing the legs perfectly, stopped working. I remember thinking that the dogs that started barking at the recordings of singing humpbacks while jammed into pews at The Cathedral of St John the Divine back in 1992 were undone by such foreign language. Now, I wonder if they were not just becoming chorus to the larger pack?
Dr. Richard D. Hansen, an archaeologist with the Idaho State University has just completed a 30-year study of a pre-classic Mayan civilization on both sides of the Mexico-Guatamala border and concludes that it collapsed because of deforestation and damage to an overburdened agricultural system. I think we can take note of this. I don't want to collapse. Leave the forests. Let the forest leave.
Maybe the whales are not just mapping the ocean floor when they swim, but admiring the familiar view as they go back to the summer waters, the winter mating grounds, thoughtful of their days and nights. Maybe, there were a whole set of signals the Welsh devised to communicate more than warning. Even now, we can't keep to one subject---especially me--so how could the ancients do it?
I leave you with a song by the band, Whales and Wolves, called "What is Wrong".