evolution of marine mammals began 60 million years ago,
when the first land mammals took to the water in search
of food and a safer habitat. They have slowly evolved to
adapt perfectly to their aquatic lifestyle, exchanging their
fur for an insulating layer of blubber. The forelegs transformed
to pectoral flippers and is used for balance and steerage.
The hind limbs shrank to only a small remnant bone fragment
and was replaced by powerful tail flukes that propel them
easily through the water. The mouth has enlarged to be able
to take in hundreds of pounds of food required to sustain
them and teeth were replaced by baleen plates which efficiently
strain out sand and mud. Their nostrils receded to the top
of the head to facilitate breathing.
centuries, humans and whales have happily coexisted on this
planet, the indigenous peoples often relying on beached
whales for food. The Ma-ac (gray whale) was greatly revered
and respected. Hunting from dugout canoes was done only
with great ceremony. Hunting parties prayed and fasted in
preparation and only the chief was permitted to throw the
first harpoon. The whole whale was utilized and divided
among the community with great thanks offered to the creator.
One whale would feed whole villages so the takes were minimal,
unlike modern commercial whaling fleets that have annihilated
entire populations in a very short period of time in their
relentless quest for valuable oil, meat, blubber and bone.
there were about 25,000 gray whales on the Eastern Pacific
coast, until the New England whaler Charles Scammon discovered
the calving lagoons in Baja California, where a full scale
slaughter of the animals was easily carried out. By 1939,
with only a few animals surviving, the grays were offered
partial protection by the International Whaling Commission
and finally granted full protection in 1946.