Come with me to three faraway places and you might see why I feel deeply and strongly about whales.
During the week it takes us to circle the ice-crowned sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, we see exactly two large whales -- and two now-defunct whaling stations. In 1904, the Norwegian whaler C.F. Larsen arrived right here and wrote with astonishment, "I see them in hundreds and thousands."
During the next 60 years, whalers killed about 2 million whales in the Southern Hemisphere, including about 360,000 blue whales, 200,000 humpbacks, almost 400,000 sperm whales, and a staggering 750,000 fin whales. Many of those whales should still be alive. That's why we haven't seen more whales.
Down along the Antarctic Peninsula on a penguin-research expedition, we find that the beach at King George Island is strewn with bigger-than-dinosaur bones of great whales, cast off after the whales were stripped of flesh. A whale vertebrae the size of a hassock makes a good seat for jotting a few notes. Then, like children making up a game, we'll try to walk a couple hundred yards on the bones of whales killed by human beings, without stepping on the sand. It's quite do-able.