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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

The Last Whaling Station

The Last Whaling Station Point San Pueblo California

Whaling Station San Pueblo
A Visit to the Setting of the Story

Reality met the setting I imagined on my trip to the Last Whaling in the US, San Pueblo Point, East Bay California. This is an excerpt from The Gray Whale's Lament after my trip.

Chapter 8. The Last Whaling Station

They drove on the freeway through heavy traffic and then across the long, roller coaster-like San Rafael Bridge. Nearing their destination at Point Molate Naval Base, they passed an old air raid shelter with castle-like brown brick walls covered in vines.
Searching the internet Sarah exclaimed, “Mom, this is so interesting . . . did you know that Native Americans fished right here for centuries, and that in the late 1800s it was a Chinese shrimp camp?”
“I knew about the shrimp camp and of course there were native Americans living here long before us. Their ancestors still live around this place. If we dig in the earth we might find shards of their pottery, the shells of the mussels, and the bones fish they ate.”
“Ooh, that gives me goose bumps.” Sarah shivered.
At Point San Pablo, the road had been blocked by security guards, so they turned right at a fork, winding around a hill. Noticing that her mother was clutching the steering wheel so tightly her knuckles were white, Sarah asked, “Mom, what’s wrong?”
“This is where your Grandmother Rose took the picture of the whaling station,” she replied.
       “Stop, Mom! I want to take a picture at this spot,” Sarah said.
Bumping off the road, they parked on a grassy shoulder. Then the two hiked to the top of the hill.
“Is that where the whales were killed?” Sarah asked, pointing across the bay.
“Yes.” Her mother sighed. Standing shoulder to shoulder they listened to the wind rustling through the golden, dry grass at their feet. The wind picked up, flattening the grass, and howling across the waves.
Sarah shivered. “It sounds like the ghosts of long ago still haunt this place.”
Her mother squeezed her hand. “It’s okay to remember the past,” she said, dabbing away tears. “Even upsetting memories can motivate you to do something worthwhile.”
Sarah began snapping pictures. “Still, it’s peaceful here. It’s hard to believe this bay was home to the last active whaling station where whales were slaughtered in the US.”


Crocdile San Pueblo Whalin Station
Ramp for Dragging whales into the Whaling Station

Finally, they pulled into the parking lot, hidden around a bend at the end of the road, at Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor.
       With the Chummy at her heels and binoculars in hand, Sarah tumbled out of the car. Pulling out her mobile phone, she snapped photos of houseboats, and floating homes that lined the bay.

Richmond Boat Houes
Houseboats San Pueblo Point, East Bay California

She couldn’t resist taking a picture of the funky, oversized sculpture of an alligator with jaws wide open.

Crocodile San Pueblo Point Ca
Oversized Sculpture of an Alligator, San Pueblo Hatch Club

Even the historic old shacks and rusting machinery made interesting pictures. As they walked by, the harbor master waved and called out, “Don’t forget to visit the farm with goats and order something to eat at the restaurant.”
       They came to the pebbly beach where a sign that read: OK for launching kayaks, canoes, etc. Chummy trotted along the beach stopping to sniff at invisible scents. Her mother rubbed her forehead, “It’s changed since I was here years ago.”
“I can’t see the old whaling station,” Sarah said, looking through her binoculars.
“We need to drive to the North side of the point where we can see across the bay to the remains of the whaling station.”
They got back in the car and within minutes they arrived at the point. Chummy leapt out of the car and began to bark, “Be quiet!” Sarah command her dog to stop him from barking at the elephant seals rumbling contentedly while sunning themselves on the rocks. She could make see the blackened wooden posts, which had supported the pier and the gangplank up to the factory. Her mother had been right, there was nothing to tell of the horror that had happened here. No witness to how ruthlessly the whales had been slaughtered.


Chocking back curse words she hissed, “Nasty, stupid—.”
       Just then Chummy began yipping. She turned and saw her dog digging furiously at something half-buried in the sand.
       “Chummy, come here,” Sarah called. The dog raced toward her, then turned back to continue digging, sending sand flying.

       “What have you got there, boy?” Sarah strode over to Chummy. It appeared to be blue plastic bottle cap sticking out of the sand. Getting down on her knees, she rocked the bottle loose. She brushed off the sand she held it up to the light. It was an ordinary plastic water bottle with a roll of paper inside. There was also a plastic bag with something tiny curled inside. Peering more closely she could make out what appeared to be tiny black eye in a white face and a curled body. The image of the fetus in her dream flared in her mind. She dropped the bottle as if it were a scorpion readying to sting her.
    “Calm down. It’s just a bottle with a plastic bag and some junk inside it. Nothing to be afraid of.”
       “What is it?” Sarah asked, her breath catching in her throat.
       “I can’t tell for sure,” her mother said. “Maybe it’s a message or treasure from a castaway pirate stranded on a deserted tropical island,” her mother joked.
       “Right, and we should row over to save him right now,” Sarah said, brushing off the sand clinging to Chummy.

Emerging Genre of Climate Fiction

The Emerging Genre of Climate Fiction

Why do I write Climate Fiction?

The gale force winds of climate change are calling. They’re calling to scientists, writers, and artists to weave stories that will inspire the citizens of tomorrow to dream up a brighter future.

CliFi Claire Datnow
Photo credit Boris Datnow
Understanding the impact of climate change is an essential step toward preparing ourselves to become knowledgeable, active, and just stewards of our state’s and our planet’s natural environment adversely impacted by climate change. I do not sugar coat the truth but, hopefully, my stories inspire kids to feel hope and to take action for the future.

Eco fiction can be as diverse as our natural world, and impact all kinds of communities and families. It is multicultural, diverse, Gobal—and with animals too.

“Because It’s real . . . It’s Us . . . There’s Hope.”

 Red Flag cover 1:26   copy

I do not sugar coat the truth but my stories inspire kids to take action for the future.

Cli-Fi is teaching us about the world as we NEED TO SEE IT: a planet in the GRIP of a climate crisis.” Theodora Sutcliffe

Eco fiction can be as diverse as our natural world, and impact all kinds of communities and families. It is multicultural, diverse, Gobal—and with animals too.

My Book Recommendations:

Fiction (for the Young at Heart)
Midnight Zoo by Sonya Harnett
The Zoo at the Edge of the world Eric Kahn Gale
the Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
The Thing About Jelly Fish by Ali Benjamin
Memory of Water by Emmi Itaranta
The Summer Book by Tova Jannsson

Adult Fiction:
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
The Overstay by Richard Powers
Maddaddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood
Dune by Frank Herbert
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
Bearskins by Annie Proulx
Memory of Water by Emma Itaranta
Arctic by Kim Stanley Robinson
Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh


Naturalist E.O. Wilson (a memoir)
The Big Burn by Timothy Egan
Gone to the Woods by Gary Paulsen (memoir)
The World in a Whale by Rebecca Giggs
How to Change everything by Naomi Klein
Miseducation: How Climate Change is taught in America by Katie Worth

Links to Websites with Book Recommendations. (Climate Fiction Writers League)

You can view the video of the Climate Change Panel presentation at the Environmental Education Association of Alabama, February 2022 on YouTube at:

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.


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
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.

Eco Fiction Writer's 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.
“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:

Subscribe to my newsletter at: 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: To begin reading “A Writers Journey: A Whales Lament,” visit my blog on:
Send Your Questions and Ideas to—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—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
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (and an exceedingly long list of other resources)

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