If a whale explodes on the beach and there's no one around to see it does it make a sound?

credit: Doris Sheppard

A blue whale lies fermenting on the shores of Newfoundland. With a world population numbering a mere 250, it represents one of the most endangered creatures on earth.

I’ve stood under a blue whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling of the Beatty Biodiversity Museum in Vancouver and the thing was mind boggling big. The length of two city buses, one feels the vulnerability of Jonah in its skeletal presence. These are rare, grand creatures.

This one probably won’t explode. The gasses building in its gut will likely seep out through its decaying skin. But what if it did explode? Yes, the clean up job would be enormous and very gross, but it would certainly serve as a stunning metaphor for the extinction drama our planet is currently experiencing.

The place where the metaphor breaks down, of course, is in the sound department -- while species are going extinct at an unprecedented rate, they are doing so without explosions or cymbal crashes. They disappear quietly. No explosions, just fewer chirps, croaks and songs.

If a whale explodes on a beach and there is no one around to hear it does it make a sound?

Of course.

Perhaps the better question is “What sound of lament will we make as Creation’s choir loses so many voices?”
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