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Whale of a Tale

[My story on right whales in today's paper.]

Last Monday, researchers aboard a Cessna aircraft spotted a right whale and her calf loitering in the Atlantic about six miles east of Hilton Head Island, S.C. They fired off a bulletin to the Coast Guard, the Navy, and ship captains up and down the coast:

"WHALE ALERT 18NM NE "T" (SCGA003) 24NOV2008, 1440(L), 3209.3N, 08027.8W, 1 ADULT, 1 CALF, NW"

The endangered North Atlantic right whale can live as long as a human being. It breathes air, like other mammals, but can submerge for 30 minutes and feed on plankton 600 feet below the surface. It generally stays close to shore but can cross the open ocean from Maine to Norway. What this creature cannot do, usually, is survive a collision with a ship.

That's a critical problem this time of year, when pregnant females cruise south from the cold waters off Canada and New England to the warm nursery off the southeastern U.S. seaboard. It's a journey of 1,500 miles or so, through some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

Click here to keep reading.


And you must not miss this boodler-produced story of high-tech whale watching.

By Joel Achenbach  |  December 1, 2008; 3:44 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Future of Journalism
Next: Aliens From Space!!!!


Thanks, CoraAroc.

Wow. A boodler with whales in 'em.

Avast. Me hearties. Heave ho. Pass the rum. Gotta cracker.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 1, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Informative and interesting stories, both of them. We do have great writers in our midst.

Posted by: slyness | December 1, 2008 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Did you notice that the NYT stopped using date/place stamps on their reportage about a year ago?

I think that the public editor said it was to save space and make it easier to computer users, which I think is ludicrous!

Posted by: rickoshea0 | December 1, 2008 4:07 PM | Report abuse

"Whale of a Tale"
How clever and original.
That is why Joel gets paid the big bucks.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 1, 2008 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I did, and it was a STUNNING conflict between the editorial boards of the print and onine versions....or so am told by some colleagues.

Online venues seem to be leaning toward sloppiness because the younger cast of editors does not really understand what we have developed over a 300 year history of increasingly robust newspapering.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 1, 2008 4:15 PM | Report abuse

CqP, I see a similar disconnect between the WaPo print copy desks versus the online peeps (very sloppy, in my view). I know one or two of the print people; they won't discuss it with me (discretion being the better part of valor), but when somebody heaves a deep sigh and rolls his eyes, I know how to read it.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 1, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

And, do you know, Mudge, about

two-click editing



yes, I said: CHARTicles. Articles that are 70% visuals, with a 30% leavening of text.

(These moans came from two print version buds....cannot.say.their.names.....they could be ferreted out by an MBA editor and let go for disloyalty.)

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 1, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Finally Joel's excellent story about whales is a Kit! I also enjoyed the linked complementary whale piece. I'm glad that in the teeth of opposition ships must slow down near whales. I think it would be charming if the ships could escort the whales as far as their routes coincide. I realize that is no doubt too much of a hindrance to commercial shipping, and the whales probably wouldn't like it either. I just have a lovely mental image of the ships and the whales companionably sailing side by side.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 1, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

"The whales call to one another and can locate objects with their sonar..."

Not to quibble, but I'm pretty sure right whales don't have any sonar capabilities at all; that ability is only present in toothed whales.

Hopeful Monster née Dooley

Posted by: Hopeful_Monster | December 1, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Dooley of the Dinos and so much more.

Friend, nice to hear your voice!!!! And, with a tidbit of knowledge upon it.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 1, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Not familiar with "two-click editing," CqP, and have a feeling I don't want to be. Am vaguely familiar with charticles, a kind of USA Today concept. There are places where it may be appropriate.

Running for the bus.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 1, 2008 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Hi, Dooley!

(aka mostlylurking)

Posted by: seasea | December 1, 2008 5:04 PM | Report abuse


During the primaries there was a minor kerfuffle when Maureen Dowd attended a New Hampshire Clinton campaign event, boarded a press plane for a Bush Middle East trip, had an assistant gather some quotes at a post-election party, and filed her actual column from Jerusalem. The column was published with a Derry, NH dateline since that was where Dowd had been following Clinton (and Joel has contemporaneous spottings of her).

In the response to this teapot sized tempest, Andy Rosenthal had this to say:

"Datelines are kind of an anachronism," he said. "It’s a little bit of an affectation."

See my full coverage here:

I can see where on fast moving stories datelines can be confusing or misleading.

Ironically the Dowd column from Sunday deplored the use of freelancers in Mysore City, India (a real place) to cover stories in southern California. Here is a case where datelines would have to be either fudged or ignored.

Posted by: Mo_MoDo | December 1, 2008 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Still no ads for "chicken on sale" over in the right margin.

Posted by: Jumper1 | December 1, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Dooley! So good to hear from you. I'm sure you must be correct, being a scientist and all. Even if you're not a marine zoologist.

Posted by: slyness | December 1, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Everyone should check out the cool planetary alignment -- crescent moon, Venus, Jupiter all in the same zip code. We have clear skies here in DC just in time.

Posted by: JoelAchenbach | December 1, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Hey you all,

slipping in to mention that I was just outside on my front porch and had a clear view of the moon, Venus & Jupiter, lovely and clean and bright, dunno how long you can view it, but it's well worth a try, bundle up, tho.

Posted by: VintageLady | December 1, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Before I backboodle or read Joel's article in full, just want to say I am so excited his boodle link mention my town!! Suburb Ha :-)

Posted by: dmd2 | December 1, 2008 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Why, Joel! It really is beautiful....

Posted by: VintageLady | December 1, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse

I ran in from doggiewalking to say the same things:

There's a moon upon the left
Two stars upon the right
There's a nightingale singing
to the soft and wondrous night.

Well the first two lines are true...the rest is a Dave Mallet song...sort of.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 1, 2008 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Wow you folks beat me to that beautiful celestial grouping....almost looks like the Turkish flag or a flag I have seen in the past.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | December 1, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

New Kit! Joel's on fire.

Posted by: seasea | December 1, 2008 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Great articles!

Too cloudy to see anything here, but I did not two very bright stars in the SW sky on Saturday in a parallel line about 1/3 up the horizon - it was very beautiful and at the time about the only stars (or planets?) visible. Wowfully lack knowledge of the night sky.

Posted by: dmd2 | December 1, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

slyness, marine mammals are Dooley's thing; extinct and living alike. He's worked a whale quarry down in his patch for a long time.

It's been raining, sleeting and styrofoaming (falling white stuff like crumbled expanded polystyrene) all day. No chance whatsoever to look at the stars. Grrrrbbble.

When I was working for the navy, the light grey one, it was generally believed that naval tin cans were bad for whales. As they have a small draft for their size and are generally silenced to be less detectable by submarines the frigate and destroyer-sized naval platforms, (a.k.a. ship in civilized company) were considered a high threat for the whales. Anybody with a view on this?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 1, 2008 6:04 PM | Report abuse

It's been thought that Navy sonar poses a threat to whales - this recent ruling is a setback if you think that's true:

Posted by: seasea | December 1, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Good evening Boodle. Busy day, here and there.

I will be at the airport for my flights to DC at an unconscionably early hour tomorrow, so will miss Dawn Patrol. I've asked my caterer friends to make sure breakfast is waiting and piping hot by the time bc arrives to warm up the engines, and to refresh for the gallant fly-boys and girls as they straggle in. My bet is on Cassandra being first, so she'll organize the rest of you on my behalf.

Reminder: IBPH at M&S at 5:30 on Wednesday. I am looking forward to seeing some of you there, and wish all of you could join us.

Over the last few days I have had some deeply rewarding conversations with a good friend. The glow from those exchanges reminds me that if I haven't been in touch with friends, I should make more of an effort to reach out. A lesson I have been taught over and over again, in my life.

Posted by: Yoki | December 1, 2008 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Make sure you get noticed in the new kit Yoki. ;)

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 1, 2008 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Good story. In the St. Augustine area, they used to be called "surf whales". The town was long the sort of place where local bakeries used sea turtle eggs, so baby whale steak doesn't sound out of the question.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | December 1, 2008 8:58 PM | Report abuse

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