Whispering Horse

Animal Stories

Humpback Whale 2011

Humpback Whale 2005

A little story that helps to keep the attitude in the space of gratitude.

If you read the front-page story of the SF Chronicle on Thurs Dec 14. 2005. You would have read about a female humpback whale who had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines. She was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of line rope wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso and a line tugging in her mouth.

A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farralone Islands (outside the Golden Gates) and radioed an environmental group for help. Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her; a very dangerous proposition. One slap of the tail could kill a rescuer. They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her.

When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time and nudged them, pushed them gently around; she thanked them.

Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives. The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth says her eye was following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.

May you, and all those you love, be blessed and fortunate to be surrounded by people who will help you get untangled from the things that are binding you. And, may you always know the joy of giving and receiving gratitude. I pass this on to you, in the same spirit.

Manta Ray

By Jennifer Anderson, Dive Master.

It was like many Maui mornings, the sun rising over Haleakala as we greeted our divers for the day's charter. As my captain and I explained the dive procedures, I noticed the wind line moving into Molokini, a small, crescent-shaped island that harbours a large reef.

I slid through the briefing, then prompted my divers to gear up, careful to do everything right so the divers would feel confident with me, the dive leader.

The dive went pretty close to how I briefed it: the garden eels performed their underwater ballet, the parrot fish grazed on the coral, & the ever-elusive male flame wrasse flared their colours to defend their territory. Near the last level of the dive, two couples in my group signalled they were going to ascend.

As luck would have it, the remaining divers were two European brothers, who were obviously troubled by the idea of a 'woman' dive master & had ignored me for the entire dive.

The three of us caught the current & drifted along the outside of the reef, slowly beginning our ascent until, far below, something caught my eye. After a few moments I made out the white shoulder patches of a manta ray in about one hundred & twenty feet of water.

Manta rays are one of my greatest loves, but very little is known about them. They feed on plankton, which makes them more delicate than an aquarium can handle. They travel the oceans and are therefore a mystery.

Mantas can be identified by the distinctive pattern on their belly, with no two rays alike. In 1992 I had been identifying the manta rays that were seen at Molokini & found that some were known but many more were sighted only once & then gone.

So there I was. A beautiful very large ray beneath me & my sceptical divers behind. I reminded myself that I was still trying to win their confidence & a bounce to see this manta wouldn't help my case.

So I started calling through my regulator "Hey.. come up & see me!" I had tried this before to attract the attention of whales & dolphins who are very chatty under water & will come sometimes just to see what the noise is about. My divers were just as puzzled by my actions but continued to try to ignore me.

There was another dive group ahead of us. The leader, who was a friend of mine & knew me to be fairly sane, stopped to see what I was doing. I kept calling to the ray & she shifted in the water column, I took that as a sign that she was curious.

So I started waving my arms, calling her (the manta) up.

After a minute she lifted away from where she had been riding the current & began to make a wide circular glide until she was closer to me. I kept watching as she slowly moved back & forth rising higher until she was directly beneath the two Europeans & me. I looked at them & was pleased to see them smiling.

Now they liked me. I could call up a manta ray.

Looking back to the ray, I realised she was much bigger than what we were used to around Molokini, a good fifteen feet from wing tip to wing tip & not a familiar looking ray. I had not seen this animal before. There was something else odd about her.

I just couldn't figure out what it was.

Once my brain clicked in & I was able to concentrate, I saw deep V shaped marks of her flesh missing from her backside. Other marks ran up & down her body. At first I thought a boat had hit her. As she came closer now with only ten feet separating us, I realised what was wrong.

She had fishing hooks embedded in her head by her eye with very thick fishing line running to her tail. She had rolled with the line & was wrapped head to tail about five or six times. The line had torn into her body at the back. These were the V shaped chunks that were missing.

I felt sick & for a moment paralysed. I knew wild animals in pain would never tolerate a human to inflict more pain. But I had to do something. I forgot about my air, my divers & where I was.

I went to the injured manta.

I moved very slowly & talked to her the whole time, like she was one of the horses I had grown up with. When I touched her, her whole body quivered like my horse would do. I put both of my hands on her, then her entire body, talking to her the whole time. I knew that she could knock me off at any time with one flick of her great wing.

When she had steadied I took out the knife that I carry on my inflator hose & lifted one of the lines. It was tight & difficult to get my fingers under, almost like a guitar string. She shook, which told me to be gentle. It was obvious that the slightest pressure was painful.

As I cut through the first line it pulled into her wounds.

With one beat of her mighty wings she dumped me & bolted away. I figured that she was gone & was amazed when she turned & came right back to me, gliding under my body. I went to work. She seemed to know it would hurt & somehow she also knew that I could help.

Imagine the intelligence of that creature. To come to me for help. And to trust.

I cut through one line and into the next until she had all she could take of me & would move away, only to return in a moment or two. I never chased her. I would never chase any animal. I never grabbed her. I allowed her to be in charge.

And she always came back.

When all the lines were cut on top, on her next pass, I went under her to pull the lines through the wounds at the back of her body. The tissue had started to grow around them & they were difficult to get loose. I held myself against her body, with my hand on her lower jaw. She held as motionless as she could.

When it was all-loose, I let her go & watched her swim in a circle. She could have gone then & it would have all fallen away. She came back & I went back on top of her

The fishing hooks were still in her. One hook was barely hanging on which I removed easily. The other was buried by her eye at least two inches past its barb. Carefully I began to take it out hoping I wasn't damaging anything. She did open & close her eye while I worked on her & finally it was out. I held the hooks in one hand while I gathered the fishing line in the other hand my weight on the manta.

I could have stayed there forever. I was totally oblivious to everything but that moment. I loved this manta. I was so moved that she would allow me to do this for her. But reality came screaming down on me. With my air running out I reluctantly came to my senses.

And I pushed away.

At first she stayed below me. And then she realised that she was free, she came to life like I never would have imagined she could. I thought she was sick & weak since her mouth had been tied closed & she hadn't been able to feed for however long the lines had been on her. I thought wrong. With two beats of those powerful wings she rocketed along the wall of Molokini & then directly out to sea.

I lost view of her & remembering my divers turned to look for them. Remarkably we hadn't travelled very far. My divers were right above me & had witnessed the whole event, thankfully. No one would have believed me had I been alone.

It seemed too amazing to have happened.

But as I looked at the hooks & line remaining in my hands & still felt the torn calluses from her rough skin, I knew that, yes, it really had happened.

I kicked in the direction of my divers whose eyes were still wide from the encounter, only to have them signal me to stop & turn around. Until this moment the whole experience had been phenomenal but I could explain it. Now, the moment turned magical.

I turned and saw her slowly gliding towards me.

With barely an effort she approached me & stopped, her wing just touching my head. I looked into her round dark eye & she looked deeply into me. I felt a rush of something that so over-powered me, I have yet to find the words to describe it, except a warm & loving flow of energy from her into me.

She stayed with me for a moment. I donít know if it was a second or an hour. Then she lifted her wing over my head, and was gone.


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