Wednesday, 6 June 2012
Long journeys up and down the West Coast to attend my final exam board at Cumbria University have given me a chance to begin my Summer reading.
Later in July Eleanor and I are going to spend some time in New England and so in preparation I've spent the last couple of days reading Philip Hoare's excellent Leviathan, which is a brilliant cultural history of whales and whaling. The book offers some amazing accounts of battles between the first whaling ships which left New Bedford and Nantucket and these wonderful creatures, who Hoare suggests may have an intelligence so sophisticated that abstract and imaginative thoughts such as religion and future could well be within their ken.
It's an incredible history dating right back into the sixteenth century. Queen Elizabeth I was convinced on the existence of unicorns when she was presented with a Narwhal's tusk.
Despite the massacres on the whale populations that occurred in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which have decimated many species, there are still great beasts out there who have lived for over 200 years. Which means it's quite possible that some of the great whales who provided the inspiration for Herman Melville's Moby Dick are still with us.
The sand dunes of Cape Cod and weatherboard chapels where the whalers prayed for safe passage seem miles away on a rainy afternoon in Carlisle - but with the exam boards out the way - summer is creeping up on us.