19 October 2008

Twenty Years Ago

10-19-88 Wednesday. In what has to be considered pure escapism (from the presidential campaign, if nothing else), every news organization is leading with the story of three young whales off the north coast of Alaska (near Barrow). The whales were frozen in by ice floes on their southward migration from the arctic. Somebody spotted them surfacing in a waterhole and contacted authorities. That set in motion a great train of events. Volunteers made their way to the scene, machinery was moved in, and rescue efforts commenced. Among the rescuers are environmentalists, biologists, and Eskimos. Whales must surface to breathe, so unless the ice can be broken all the way to the sea (hundreds of miles), they’ll perish. At night, when the waterholes begin to freeze over, volunteers keep them open with poles and chainsaws. When you think about it, it’s both tragic and hilarious. Here we are, less than three weeks from a presidential election, and the top story is three whales trapped in the ice. Whales die every day from suffocation and other natural calamities. But these whales are visible; they’re our whales. I’m surprised nobody has named them yet. Give them time. Personification is inevitable.