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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

Eco Fiction Writer's Blog Episode 4

Episode 4 Whale Poop
What’s Whale Poop Got To Do With You?

Whale poop plays a major role in maintaining the cycle of aquatic life and that makes whales important “climate change warriors".

Episode 4: Backstory: A year ago to the day, on her thirteenth birthday, Alysie Muckpa had dared to stow away on the Moby, the research vessel, where her oldest girl cousin, Valentine Muckpa, worked with a crack team of marine scientists. They had come to Nahoon to investigate a mystery: Why so many gray whales were washing up dead on the coast, along their 12,000 mile round trip between Alaska and Baja, Mexico.
Grey whale with calf
Photo Credit: Gavriel Berghouse

Excerpted from Chapter 5. Aboard the research vessel, Moby, Nahoon Bay, Alaska

The news was grim. By the end of May five dead whales had washed on shore near Nahoon. At last count at least 60 other whales had died along the West Coast.
“That is the highest number in two decades,” Valentine declared. “Scientists call this an Unusual Mortality Event or UME.”
“Do you know why the whales are dying in agony, the way Natsilane, our gray, whale did?” Alysie swallowed a lump forming in her throat.
Valentine shook her head, “No.” She leaned on the ship’s rails and stared into the distant mountains, ringing the bay. Alysie watched the emotions flickering across her cousin’s face: grief, anger, frustration—and then, finally, determination.
Valentine straighten her back, rubbed her hands together, and then seeing the sheen of tears in Alysie’s eyes, said.“Don’t worry. My team will keep on going until we find out what’s harming the whales.” Reaching over, she squeezed her young cousin’s hand.
Alysie gave a tremulous smile.
That’s what I love about science, she thought. Scientists are nature detectives, searching for clues, to solve a mystery to stop the bad actors from doing harm.
Then remembering why she had come to visit her cousin, Alysie asked, “Did you find the real cause of Natsilane’s death?”
Valentine who had been bombarded by daily her texts from Alysie said, “The good news is that we found promising clues,” she paused, “Natislane blubber was thinner than it should have been perhaps indicating he wasn’t getting enough nourishment—.”

“I knew it. He starved to death!” Alysie clenched her fists by her side.

"Whoa! hold on, Alysie. Scientists have gathered data showing that gray whales washing up on the beaches are undernourished," Valentine said. “But researchers will need to collect more data—that is what science is all about
In the ship’s galley, Captain Erich was enjoying smoked salmon, his favorite snack. “So how is your young student progressing?” He asked, raising his eyebrows.
“Oh, she’s doing great, thanks captain,” Valentine responded.
Alysie forced a smile. She hated it when adults, like Captain Erich, talked about her as if she wasn’t there.
Finishing his sandwich in one big bite, he turned to Alysie, “You understand Valentine and the crew on this ship have important work to do. ”
Although Alysie tried not to show it, the captain always found a way to make her feel like a little kid.
When the captain was out of earshot, Valentine said, “Don’t mind Captain Erich, his barks is worse than his bite.” She stirred hot water and chocolate into two mugs. “But sometimes he just pisses me off.”
“I know,” Alysie surpassed a giggle.
With their hands wrapped around the mugs, Alysie picked up the conversation where they had left off. “Valentine, if whales are dying from starvation, is it because there isn’t enough food for them? If so why isn’t there?”
“Great questions. Researchers have found a connection between the lack of food for whales and climate change.”
“Wow, climate change?” Alysie asked. “How have they connected the dots between whales going hungry and climate change?” Opening her sketchbook, Alysie drew two dots, labelling one
Food, and the other Climate Change.

IMG_0499

Alysie laughed, “Oh, thanks for the compliment. I’m going to keeping working on it before can hand it in to my science teacher for a grade.
“You should add one more label,” Valentine said. Alysie draw a dot and filled it in, then held her pencil poised, “Label it the Whale Poop Pump.”
“That sounds icky.” Alysie made a face.
Valentine checked her watch. “We’re just about out of time, so I’ll make this brief. Nutrient-rich whale poo helps reverse the effects of climate change.”
Alysie leaned forward to catch every word as Valentine was talking rapidly. “When whales come up to breath, they also poop. Whale poop is filled with iron and nitrogen. Without these two elements and sunlight, plankton cannot reproduce and grow

While Valentine was busy helping Captain Erich, the first lines of a limerick just popped into Alysie’s head.
There was a gray whale with a baleen beard
Who said, “It is just as I feared,

She chewed on the end of the pencil and then continue to scribble

Too little plankton, not enough iron or nitrogen, too few crustaceans,
Warming oceans, melting ice, shrinking plankton stations
Have caused my whale poop plumes to disappear
I sadly fear

Alysie frowned, crossed out the word disappear and was searching for another word to rhyme with ‘feared’ when she heard Valentine say, “I added some items captain.” Herr cousin return the list to the captain who nodded curtly. Before exiting he said, “Valentine your little shadow sure likes to follow you around.”
Alysie felt the heat burning on her cheeks. She was grateful that Valentine turned her back to him, ignoring his remarks, and picked up the conversation where they had left off. “Okay where were we, Alysie?”
“Whales are like trees!” Alysie said.
“They’re are,” Valentine agreed.
“Yay!”Alysie stood up and pumped her fist into the air. Then she through her arms around Valentine. “Thank you,” she said, “I just love science!”
“What’s not to love about science—you can literally change the world with the power of science.”Valentine hugged her cousin. “Your welcome,” she said.
Alysie took a deep breath to calm herself. “Valentine, can I join the research —” Before Alysie could finish her sentence, Dr. Rostov, the lead biologist, walked into the galley. His ice-gray eyes were red from lack of sleep.
Valentine stood up briskly, “Time to get to work.”
Dr. Rostov said, “Guess it’s time for you to head home, Alysie. “Hope you enjoyed your visit on the
Moby.
As she watched the two leave, Alysie felt as if someone had slammed a door in her face. She had high hopes that the team would be impressed by her leading them to Natsilane, and by the way she had helped at the necropsy. Obviously, they hadn’t been or the would ave invited her to join their team. She felt disappointed, empty and hollowed out.
On the way home, she told herself,
I’ve got to find another way to prove myself. Straightening her shoulders, she marched on. The wind in the bare branches seemed to whisper back: Prove yourself, Prove yourself.