Piano…A Whale of a Story

Sometimes the story behind the scars is bigger than the whale, larger than life. Such is Piano’s life story.

Piano crossed my path this year while I was visiting the Silver Bank for an offshore humpback whale week. She was eight years old. When I photographed her frolicking with other humpbacks she appeared happy, like the other whales swimming within the protected area. There was one exception….Piano had severe scars along her back. Looking at them through the viewfinder of my camera and telephoto lens I winced, “How could she survive whatever caused THAT!

And the scars were not ‘only’ on her back. It appeared as if she had an entanglement scar on her fluke. It was difficult figuring out her story.

I captured several images including a fluke ID photo. Upon return I emailed the Center for Coastal Studies, sending the images along with the time and date observations were obtained.

Almost immediately I received a reply from Jooke Robbins, PhD, director of the Humpback Whale Studies Program giving a brief history of the whale and stating she was well known by the staff there. I did further digging and found out more information about this beautiful angel of the sea.

Piano was born in 2009. In 2011 she suffered a severe injury through a ship strike. Specifically the propeller sliced her back…or appeared to chew it. In July of 2012 she was severely entangled in fishing gear. When she was freed from that entanglement by the team, scars were noted from an even earlier, unwitnessed entanglement.  On a lighter note, she was the poster girl for Wild Chatham in 2010.

Whales that live in the Gulf of Maine and surrounding area have a much better chance of survival thanks to The Center for Coastal Studies.  Not only do they study whales, they have an amazing disentanglement team. Check out the short video below.

DISENTANGLEMENT VIDEO

DISENTANGLEMENT VIDEO 2

DISENTANGLEMENT VIDEO 3

Piano touched me deeply. She fully embodies the energy of persistence and has survived even when faced with serious consequences of simply being a humpback whale in a world where human activity is increasingly dangerous.

Piano and her friend frolicking on the Silver Bank.

Join me in saying a little prayer for Piano, sending her love and include all whales in that prayer. And while you’re at it, say one for the humans, too. We need to awaken.

I offer an invitation to visit the Center for Coastal Studies web page to learn about their amazing work with many marine species. Join me in supporting them as a member. Visit their cool on-line store to purchase whale merch.

The summary of my week? More than ever I believe these whales to be highly aware, sentient beings with amazing intelligence and an important role to play in this Ocean planet’s story. I contend they are Angels of the Sea.

To read other stories about humpback whales check out the previous stories from this week on the Silver Bank.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

The Video

Special thanks to Tom Conlin and Aquatic Adventures and the crew of the Turks & Caicos Explorer II.

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