Southern Ocean Early March
LOOKING up, the whale could see the darkness fading away, being replaced by a vast umbrella of intensifying brightness. The shimmering underside of the surface was a short memory as he broke through for his first exhalation. A thunderous blast heard over a kilometer radius. His spout, a powerful column of water broken up into extremely fine particles, like the mist from an atomizer, squirted forward, signaling his surfacing.
He had ascended to a point close to where he dived. Unlike a human diver he did not suffer from gas embolism, commonly know as the “bends”. His blubber re-routed the nitrogen in his blood before it reached the nerve fibers, so it was released gradually as he surfaced. Additionally, nitrogen was trapped in the large number of his nasal sacs and sinuses. Lined with an oil-mucus emulsion, the nitrogen and other inert gases were dissolved easily.
He drew in his first breath. Panting, he began to blow quickly every twelve seconds in an effort to catch his breath. ‘What was that sound? Danger? Suddenly the throb of some strange unnatural being. Enemy?? It is very close!’ Without waiting to fully recover, he dived. Throwing his mighty flukes high into the air, showing off his black tail with the variably pigmented underside, he slid back into the security of the depths.
Unknown to him, the spotter in the crow’s nest carefully reported the sounding while the crew on the bridge of the whale chaser checked the echolocation sonar. They knew it was only a shallow dive and the vessel changed direction to intercept him.
Surfacing after a short time, he heard the dreaded throb again. ‘Escape!!’ after only three blows he sounded. ‘Must escape’
In an effort to throw off his pursuers, he dived seven times in succession. But now he was slowing. Desperate to escape, he was becoming powerless and too exhausted to do so. The high frequency pulses emitted by the whalechaser’s sonar, and the scattered sounds of the human shouts, vigorous and excited from the hunt, devastated his sense of security as he slowed down.
Panting, he had to rest on the surface. Unprotected. The sound--so close--must escape!
Startled by the deafening explosive blast as the harpoon fired from the gun, he arched his back. The shocking, sickening thump of the harpoon penetrating his blubber had no immediate effect on his massive forty thousand kilogram body. Somewhere in his body the head of the harpoon sliced its way through the blubber. Suddenly the claws opened as the string came on the whale line. Resistance acted on the trailing edge to open the flanges, gripping onto the underlying muscles in his body. The barbed tips spread outward in different directions ripping into his flesh and lodging the grenade deep inside him.
Looking on from above, the chaser’s crew waited expectantly. Knowing.
Then, by delayed action fuse, the penthrite grenade exploded, completing the awful violation of his body by spraying shrapnel through his vital organs. The explosion caused massive internal injury, and for a moment the force of the blast suspended his final dive.
By instinct he completed the dive, desperately seeking to escape the destruction of his body. Racked by pain, drinking his own blood, his nerves shattered, and losing his ability to swim, he sounded, taking two hundred and seventy five meters of line with him. But the shattering effects of the strike restricted his movements. Not able to sound properly, he surfaced, fighting against the pull of the manila whale line.
Above and behind him, Sasaki checked his watch. Twelve minutes of the battle had passed and the whale, tired and exhausted lay on the surface, his speed reduced so that he barely made any way. Suddenly the stricken animal let out a last bloody gasp. In the flurry, a final agonized outcry. The giant’s spout rained blood over his body and the surrounding sea. His death throes had ended. He lay motionless on the surface of the battlefield, rolling and twisting in the sea washed by his own blood.