Monday, 19 January 2015


A modern day take on the old sea shanty with a picture taken by my son in Moreton Bay Queensland - up until the 1960's there was a whaling station based at Tangalooma - The operation seriously decimated the east coast population of humpback whales to less than 500 individuals from the original population, which was estimated at 15,000.  In 1965 humpback whales were placed on the Protected Species list.   after it closed in 1962 it took nearly 30 years before the whales returned to Moreton Bay.  Whales share their stories down through generations and the y have long memories.


 Maureen Clifford © The Scribbly Bark Poet

In the spring of 1896 there was ice upon the sea
and we both went a- whaling – young Billy Bob and me.
We sailed the night till daybreak, plenty of whales there be
 enough to make a fortune for young Billy Bob and me.
We let them live, for the sea rose and waves broke ‘cross our boat
it was a miracle at all that we were still afloat.
We lost an oar and rudder we were adrift on the sea
beneath dark scudding clouds and scared – young Billy Bob and me.

I’ve sailed the seven seas before, been twice around the Horn
but never yet have I once met the sight we saw that morn.
Afloat just off our starboard bow a mother and her calf,
her throat gave out a mournful note which would have made me laugh
were I not scared by her sheer size and close proximity
though seems she had no interest in the boat containing me.
She sang her song of loss and love and tears ran from her eye
and then it was I noticed a whale corpse lying close by.

Seems that corpse was her mate who’d been killed by our sharp harpoon
fired from the bloody whaler -  ‘twas the one we shot ‘fore noon
rough seas had ripped away the line and set the carcase free -
so now ‘twas just the whale and calf and Billy Bob and me.
The whaling ship was nowhere seen perhaps she had been sunk
and I was cold and sober but I wished that I was drunk,
for wild thoughts now besieged my brain I saw the whale’s distress.
I shared now in her sorrow and felt bad I do confess.

We shared the sea together and we heard her mournful dirge
whilst overhead a gathering of ferocious sea birds
were landing on the carcase, flensing flesh with savage beaks
and all the while,  the young  whale calf emitted little squeaks.
We drifted with the current and the whale drifted away
and soon we saw the golden sands of a small sheltered bay.
We paddled hard with our one oar and made it into shore,
and vowed that we would never go a- whaling any more.  
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