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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

Eco Fiction Writers Blog Episode 3

Episode 3. My Writing Journey Continues: Whalefall

Grey whale with calf
Gray Whale Mother and Calf off the Coast of California (Gavriel Berghouse)
Like uncorking a bottle of champagne, ideas pop and fizz in my head. I snare a few to weave into the story
Here are the latest titles that I’m considering for Book 2 of the
Climate Change Trilogy: Fire, Water, and Air.
1.
“The Time Has Come,” The Whale Said (Book 2 Water)
2. The Whale’s Lament (Book 2 Water)
3) Three Amigos and a Magnificent Whale (Book 2 Water)
4)Whalefall (Book 2 Water)

Please let me know which title you prefer? Email me at: cldatnow@me
Note: Red Flag Warning: An Eco Adventure (BooK1. Fire) is the first published book in the Climate Change Trilogy.
In preparation for Chapter 3, I
researched the scientific facts governing the phenomenon of a whalefall.
Summary of Chapter 3: Alysie Muckpa, the teenage protagonist of the story, hears the gray whale Natislane calling to her, “The time has come!”
She begs the whale not to come closer to the shore, but he washes up on the beach. Without water to keep him afloat, the weight of Natsilane’s gigantic body begins to crush his internal organs. Alysie is heartbroken at the death of her whale. But she learns that as smelly as 100 tons of decomposing flesh can be, a dead whale is a scientific goldmine for her cousin Valentine’s marine research team. His carcass provides an opportunity for them to perform a necropsy, to reveal the cause of the whales death, and to understand a creature that is frequently beyond their reach.

Gray whalesthe Coast of Califrnia
Gray Whales, California (Gabby Berghouse)
In Preparation for Chapter 3, I Researched the Science Behind What Happens When a Whale Dies at Sea.
Soon after the death, the whale’s inside organs begin to decompose, releasing gases and causing it to float up to the surface where it is scavenged by sharks and seabirds.
Eventually, the ocean giant will begin to sink, falling slowly, until finally coming to rest on the seabed.
This phenomenon is know as a whalefall. The giant takes decades to sink to the ocean floor.
As it falls whales provide food for whole ecosystem of deep-sea creatures, from large scavengers to microscopic bacteria. Sea snails, bristle worms and shrimp devour any remaining scraps of blubber or muscle. The worms, such as
Osedax mucofloris—a name which literally means 'bone-eating snot-flower'—bore their bacteria-filled roots into the whale’s bone, leaving their feathery plumes waving in the open water to take in oxygen.
In death the whales provide life for hundreds of marine animals for up to 50 years, proof of the vital role they play in the life cycle within Earth's oceans.
I Decide to Weave this Complex Process into a Poem
Chapter 3. Whalefall
A blinding, neon fork of lightning struck the tall pine close to the boulder Alysie had been standing on, momentarily blinding her with intense light. Alysie’s head fell back against the whale. Half dreaming, half conscious images flashed behind her eyelids. She felt as if she were tumbling down into an endless underwater canyon . . .
Down. Down. Down beneath the slow black, crow black sea
Deeper than sleep,
Dimmer than night!

Down. Down. Down beneath the slow black, crow black sea

Her eyes grow accustomed to the dark where
Seahorses, jellyfish and octopuses pulse beside her.

Down. Down. Down through silent, swaying forests of
Kelp and brown seaweed—Laminaria, Alaria, and Nereocystis,
Red seaweed—Porphyra and Palmaria.
“Will this fall never end?” the whale gurgled.
“Go to sleep, close your eyes, Natsilane,” Alysie crooned.

Down. Down. Down to where
Biting, ripping hag fish, sharks, and whales
Feast on Natsilane,
Gorge on his thick, rich blubber.

Down. Down. Down to where
Worms, barnacles, crabs, and mussels
Burrow into leftover muscle and bone.

Down. Down. Down into the sea of Alysie’s dreams where
Past, present, and future,
Flow, curve, and merge.

Down. Down. Down to where
Natsilane comes to rest on the bottom of the seabed
In the briny darkness where
The skulls of the long-drowned lie where
Tiny deep-sea scavengers—
Luminous worms, sea snails, and shrimps
Feed and breed on Natsilane’s skeleton

Down. Down. Down into deepest canyon where
Microbes mingle, consuming the whale’s cells
Swimming in methane gas bubbling from thermal vents,
And know nothing of the great grey whale.
Natislane, Oh, Natsilane . . .

Does this successfully weave scientific information in a poetic form? Email me at: cldatnow@me.com

Subscribe to my newsletter at: mediamint.net to read new episodes of “A Writer’s Journey.”
Coming Soon: Episode 4 “From Death Comes Life,” will reveal How a Whalefall is Connect to Climate Change.



ECO Fiction Writer's Blog Episode Two

Gray Whale Stranding Episode 2.

Would you like to go on a journey with me to faraway places—one that takes unexpected twists and turns? You don’t need to pack a thing or purchase a ticket. I will be your guide as we travel through time and space, meet fascinating people, and gain a different perspective as I research and write my newest eco adventure,
Whale’s Lament (working title). All you need to bring along is your curiosity and imagination and, of course, internet access. To receive my Newsletter with links to new episodes: subscribe by email: cldatnow@me.com. To begin reading “A Writers Journey: A Whales Lament,” visit my blog on: mediamint.net.
Send Your Questions and Ideas to cldatnow@me.com—they are most welcome
Our Journey begins in Nahoon, Alaska as Alysie Muckpa searches for the gray whale, she has named Natsilane:

Chapter One. Episode 2
The breakers swirled around the inky shadow in broad circles, then drained away as if sliding sideways from a submerged rock. As the shadow wallowed closer, Alysie could make out a huge, streamlined body and narrow head. Leaping off the boulder, she raced closer to the shoreline.

Storm Alaska, Claire Datnow
Storm Clouds Icy Point Straight Alaska (Boris Datnow)
There was something about its sluggish movement that made goosebumps prickle her arms. As if she were in a nightmare, Alysie could not turn away. “Calm down, get a grip!” she chided herself.
The body kept on rolling closer. The pull of the receding waves sucked it back pulled it forward. With each incoming breaker she could see the shape more clearly: the hump on its back, the line of knobs along its spine, its paddle-shaped flippers and broad tail. Push-pull, forward-backward. The ocean rocked the mighty whale in its arms, sending
it closer and closer to shore where it would be stranded, trapped, unable to move its great body back into the water.
Alysie rushed into the churning ocean. Above the drumming of the waves slamming on shore and the thunder rumbling around the cove, she screamed “Natsilane stay away! Stay Away!” Pursing her lips tight over the tip of her conch shell she blew with all her might. Nothing happened. She blew again, AAAARRRRRUUUUUUUUUUUUUU! The wind tore the sound around the bay. But the incoming tide had Natsilane in its grip. As if she could shove a forty ton whale back into the ocean, she stood there with her hands outstretched. Still the whale kept on coming.
Dragging her eyes away, Alysie squeezed them shut and sent up a prayer to the Tlinglit warrior, Blackfish, who rode on the back of a whale.

Tlinglit Totem Pole, Claire Datnow
Tlingit Totem Pole Hoonah Alsaka (Boris Datnow)
A sour odor, like a shred of rotting fish, slammed into her. With a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, her eyes flew open . . .
To read the next episode: Subscribe to cldatnow.
Send Your Questions and Ideas to cldatnow@me.com—they are most welcome

To inspire you along the way here are ideas, travel destinations, and books to enjoy.

Travel: Boris and I visited Alaska in 2019. The villages and towns we explored inspired the background to this story. We are planning to visit Baja California in February 2022 where gray whales migrate to the lagoons to mate and have their calves.
Documentary: Life Among Whales, streaming on PBS, narrated by Robert Payne.
Books: Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs
Ice Whale by Jean Craighead
Song for a Whale by Lynn Kelley
Articles: The Last Whaling Station in America http://www.lakata.org/arch/whaling.html
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (and an exceedingly long list of other resources)
https://hakaimagazine.com/features/are-we-on-the-verge-of-chatting-with-whales/

Subscribe to my newsletter and blog at mediamint.net to read the next episodes.








Eco Fiction Writer's Blog Episode One


Claire Datnow's Writing Adventures

Would you like to go on a journey with me to faraway places—one that takes unexpected twists and turns? You don’t need to pack a thing or purchase a ticket. I will be your guide as we travel through time and space, meet fascinating people, and gaining a different perspective as I research and write my newest Eco adventure,
The Whales Lament. All you need to bring along is your curiosity and imagination— and, of course, internet access. To begin this journey subscribe by email to: cldatnow@me.com

Note: The Whales Lament is the second book in a proposed cli-fi trilogy. Red Flag Warning: An Eco Adventure, first book in the trilogy, can be purchased from
Amazon or downloaded on Kindle.

DSC_0905
The Whale's Lament (Boris Datnow)
Our Journey Begins: Nahoon, Alaska as Alysie Muckpa searches for the gray whale, Natsilane:

Part One.
It is late spring on Chichagof Island, Alaska and the air and the water are warming. The bears have wakened from their long winter sleep. And all eyes gazing out to sea for the most graceful giants the gray whale. It is here they begin and end the longest migration of any mammal, 12,000 miles from the summer feeding grounds in the icy waters of the Arctic to their breeding grounds in the warm lagoons of Baja, Mexico—and back again with the changing seasons. This migration can take two to three months. Gray whales normally travel alone or in small groups. They surface only for a quick spout of air and breath before disappearing into the ocean. Instead of teeth, gray whales have baleen which is like a thick comb with long hairs. Diving down to the muddy bottom, they scoop up sediment form the ocean floor filtering out mud and trapping plankton and krill to eat. In the seventeen and eighteen hundreds whalers in search of oil hunted gray whales to near extinction. In 1946 and international treaty was singed to provide oversight and management of whale hunting. But it was under the protection of the Endangered Species Act in 1974 and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAH) careful management that the eastern pacific gray whale has recovered to a sustainable population. Today, nearly 24,000 gray whales continue their annual migration along the coast of North America, giving humans a glimpse of these majestic creatures that live in the deep. However, many factors still threaten gray whales including: vessel strikes, disruption of their migration routes, and entanglement in fishing gear. The whales that lived in the Western Pacific are no longer seen along the Asian shores. Baleen whales are acoustic animals and can communicate across entire oceans using vocalizations. Every species of whale speaks a unique "language" and scientists are still trying to learn what information whales communicate to one another.

DSC_1005-SAI-focus
Spouting Whale, Antarctica (Boris Datnow)
Chapter One. Nahoon Alaska on Chicagof Island in the early spring.
Shading her eyes from the glow of the rising sun, Alysie Muckpa stood alone on the rugged cliffs gazing out to sea like a sailor longing for the sight of land
. The wind tore at her hair, unraveled her braids and whistled in her ears. The night before, she had dreamed she was riding high on her whale’s back, with her black hair flowing behind her . . . steering him through the towering waves. With the dream still floating in her head, she had crept out of the house, carrying a backpack with snacks, water, a rain poncho, a flashlight, and her special whorled shell prepared to stay on watch even even if a storm broke.
Alysie ignored the gulls screaming by on near-gale gusts
, and the plovers bobbing along the shore. The peregrine falcon winging swiftly across cliffs; the waves sloshing into the tide pools alive with hermit crabs, sea stars, sea cucumbers and sea urchins. On any other day, she would have lingered to marvel at the rainbow of creatures in the pool. On that day she kept her eyes focused on the ocean, searching for the misty spray of a whale or its dark shadow lurking beneath the water.
Something in the curve of the waves caught Alysie’s attention. A thrill tingled down her spine. Raising the binoculars to her eyes, she gasped in surprise. SUBSCRIBE to read more about what happens next.

To inspire you along the way here are ideas, travel destinations, and books to enjoy.

Send Your Questions and Ideas to cldatnow@me.com—they are most welcome

Travel: Boris and I visited Alaska in 2019. The villages and towns we explored inspired the background to this story. We are planning to visit Baja California in February 2022 where gray whales migrate to the lagoons to mate and have their calves.
Documentary: Life Among Whales, streaming on PBS, narrated by Robert Payne.
Books: Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs
Ice Whale by Jean Craighead
Song for a Whale by Lynn Kelley
Articles: The Last Whaling Station in America http://www.lakata.org/arch/whaling.html
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (and an exceedingly long list of other resources)