The old whale said her final farewells to the other members of the pod and turned to ride the incoming tide onto the nearby beach. She had simply grown too old to keep up with her extended family and it was time to die. She had chosen to beach herself and die without struggle, rather than face death by drowning. She had enjoyed a long and happy life and accepted her inevitable end with equanimity.
Reaching the beach, she settled comfortably on the sand as the tide ebbed and allowed her mind to wander, recalling fondly her mother, her youth, her own children and great feasts of krill enjoyed in the southern ocean.
Her reverie was interrupted by an unfamiliar sound and she wearily opened one eye to see if she could identify the source. A small dog was jumping up an down beside her head and barking loudly, while its owner was running down from the nearby dunes to examine this large piece of unexpected flotsam.
Soon there were dozens of humans swarming around her tired body. Some throwing buckets of water over her, others digging trenches. Soon, pulleys, ropes, slings were being erected around and under her and a tractor appeared which somehow became connected to her tail.
As the tide rose, she realised with horror that she was being towed backwards into the water. She attempted to use her tail to shake off her assailants, but quickly realised that she was too weak to counteract whatever mechanism was pulling her backwards. “Moby Dick” she cursed, “ are they trying to drown me? Have they no humanity?”
Soon the heaving mob had, with the aid of the tractor and the tide, moved the whale off the sand and out into shallow water where she could manoeuvre herself, albeit feebly. As she turned reluctantly seawards, she could see them punching the air, hugging each other, shouting exultantly in celebration of her now inevitable fate.
On the beach a TV crew was busy interviewing the local Green representative who talked about the need to protect these beautiful animals, extolled the efforts of the local population and hailed the success of this particular rescue operation.
As he spoke, the camera panned across the celebrating crowd on the beach and the bay beyond, to the point where the whale was slipping slowly beneath the surface to drown.
Footnote: On April 29th 2006, 3-ton pilot whale was successfully refloated from Inch Beach, Co. Kerry.
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