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BLACK WATER, RED DEATH
Ron Rau
November 01, 1976
The whales were moving north and, just as they had for centuries, the Eskimos were waiting to begin the traditional hunt that preserves a way of life
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November 01, 1976

Black Water, Red Death

The whales were moving north and, just as they had for centuries, the Eskimos were waiting to begin the traditional hunt that preserves a way of life

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"You hear that?"

It was Willie, a fellow crewman, with the quick soft smile and the pin-striped railroad shirt under a light bluejacket.

"Is that a whale?" I asked.

"Yep. He's over in the ice."

Then the rumbling again.

"Will we go after him?"

"I don't know. That's up to Joe and Abe. We couldn't get him unless he came out of the ice."

Joe and Abe stood aside, conversing and shaking their heads and looking across the water to the ice pack, three or four hundred yards away.

"There might be two of them," Willie said.

I listened. A heavy rumble. Thick. Full. Powerful. An animal noise, no doubt about it, and I had to wonder why Melville insisted, even after Linnaeus had declared otherwise, why Melville, after obviously hearing this mammalian sound, had insisted on calling the whale "a spouting fish with a horizontal tail." There was nothing fishlike about the sound. It reminded me of the big cats at a distance, their rumblings reverberating off the cool cement zoo cages. Or a hippo gurgling mud. A little like distant rolling prairie thunder; a peculiar drainlike wallowing sound, part animal, part steel. The sound of something huge, powerful, something unknown. My God, something alive. A gut sound, the bowels of the ocean in distress. But a fish? No, certainly not a fish.

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