Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Whale Numbers

Whale Numbers

“What’s Killing Pacific Whales?”  My dear friend Dr. Andrew DeVogelaere, Monterey NOAA research scientist and Catholic layman, and his colleagues, published this article in the New York Times this week with this subhead: “Emaciated gray whales are washing ashore dead.  Scientists are trying to solve the mystery.”

It is science at its best: ideas, numbers, cautious, caring, comprehensive. This NOAA research is a fabulous use of our tax dollars.  Thanks, Andrew.

Read it at

I was struck by the article’s numbers: 
167 –gray whales washed up dead this year along the West Coast.
Unknown number – dead gray whales sunk to bottom.
49 feet, 45 tons – gray whale average size
10,000 miles -their annual round trip Alaska to Mexico and back.
.33 – fewer calves this year than last.
1.3 – tons of amphipods they must eat every day in the summer in Alaska.
50 – gallons of milk baby gray whales must eat every day after being born in Mexico.
8 – degrees warmer was the Alaska Bering sea last summer, where whales feed.
1.8 and 5% - for every 1.8 degree increase, 5% drop in total mass of sea animals.
27,000 – number of gray whales today.
120,000 – gray whales at peak of commercial whaling in 1800’s.
41 – years since sea ice extent was bigger than today, much less ice algae and amphipods to eat.

Quotes from the article:

“When these whales returned to their Baja breeding grounds in early spring this year, they arrived weeks late and were skinnier than usual. Now, not only do some of the adults seem to be malnourished as they pass by on their return trip to the Arctic, but we are also seeing about one-third fewer calves than we did in last year’s count. Baby whales need 50 gallons of milk a day, with a fat content of 50 percent, which means their mothers need to be well fed……

“Last summer, the whales’ prime feeding habitat in the Bering Sea was more than eight degrees warmer than average. Scientists are working to understand whether this anomaly affected the amphipods that are the main source of food for the whales. Researchers think the amphipods eat algae that grow on and within the sea ice. But with sea ice melting, there is less algae and fewer amphipods. The maximum sea ice extent in 2018 was the lowest it has been in the last 41 years…..

“In the coming months, scientists will gain a clearer picture of what’s been happening. In the meantime, we can help these animals by supporting the creation of more protected areas in the ocean, like the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. These places are strongholds of biodiversity that provide resilience against threats like climate change. NOAA is also working with the private sector to modify shipping routes and adjust fishing techniques. The health of these gray whales depends on the health of the ocean. So does ours. We must do everything we can to better understand and protect that world.”

Psalm 104:26:
What a wildly wonderful world, God!
    You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
    made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.
Oh, look—the deep, wide sea,
    brimming with fish past counting,
    sardines and sharks and salmon.
Ships plow those waters,
    and the whales, your pets, romp in them……
“Strongholds of biodiversity that provide resilience.”  Come visit the Blue Theology Mission Station in Pacific Grove for a day, weekend or week, for a youth service trip or adult pilgrimage and see how the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is this kind of special, set apart, sacred sanctuary that we believe God approves of.  Like God herself, diverse and resilient.  I post these ocean devotionals every Wednesday here and on Facebook.  Come and Sea!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Soaked and Steeped

Soaked and Steeped

I got soaked this past weekend.  Not by rain, but at Esalen, in the sacred waters of the sulfur hot springs on the Big Sur Coast.  For over 5000 years, first the native Esselen folks and then homesteaders and hippies and now seekers of all types have soaked in these holy baths.

“Soak” is such a great word, and of course I had to look it up – Middle English in origin, it’s defined as “to lie in liquid.”  That’s what I did, lie in warm steaming smelly liquid for almost 2 hours with a dear friend and others from around the world, overlooking the crashing Pacific.

Talk about a Blue Theology experience of water’s wonder!  Its healing power quieted my mind, calmed my soul.

The same ancient word also means “to steep.”  I did emerge looking something like an old tea bag.  But the flavor was not sucked out of me, rather it was enhanced.  I was enhanced.
Esalen’s mission statement: “On ancient ground, opening new horizons.  Pioneering deep change in self and society.”  One can’t live on “Continent’s Edge” (Robinson Jeffers’ phrase) without experiencing horizon.  One can’t soak and steep in those waters without some change to self, hopefully society. 

Our Blue Theology Mission Station is at a Disciples of Christ Church in Pacific Grove.  That denomination’s founder described baptism as being “saturated in the spirit.” 

Thanks, Esalen, for the rebirth, baptism, saturation, soak and steep.

You could come to our Blue Theology Mission Station in Pacific Grove for a youth service trip or adult pilgrimage by the sea, for a day, weekend or week and then you could drive down the coast to Esalen.  I post these ocean devotionals every Wednesday here and on Facebook.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Back Again

Back Again

Three cool wise men from the east and north spent a Blue Theology day with me last week. Like the other magi, this trio, a minister, a fish and wildlife exec, and a land management preserver travelled in search of new ideas and hope.   They were a RE-verer, a RE-storer, and a RE-server.  They taught me that to be a faithful person is to love the life of RE.

These three have for decades been spiritual friends and hikers and explorers.  They chose to come to our Pacific Grove Blue Theology Mission Station for a day of prayer and learning.  We took a pilgrimage walk along the coast, reflecting together on the "Marine Stations of the Cross," sharing stories.  I gave them a spiritual tour of the Aquarium, we shared a good lunch.  I love this type of Blue Theology visit- be in touch if it sounds good to you.

It was a RE day.  Revere - to hold in awe again.  Restore - to make again healthy and whole.  Reserve - to hold back, to keep for the future.  These three guys have devoted their lives, followed deep callings, to local churches (revering), reestablishing depleted fish stocks to their native habitats (restoring), creating the University of California extensive system of 40+ Natural Reserves for research and education and protection (reserving.)

Love that RE.  It seems to mean "again" or "back" - take it back, do it again.  The Hebrew people knew in their bones the experience of slavery and exile, but God brought them BACK and gave them life AGAIN.  To be people of faith is to practice hope, possibility, u-turns.   When we seem to be lost, we can go back and we can live again.

California has established an extensive network of Marine Protected RESERVES, nurseries and safe places that are rebuilding stock and species.  Learners of all ages can apply to spend time at one of the UC system RESERVES, as I have at the fabulous Big Creek Reserve in Big Sur and others.  The whales transiting our coast this season know the blessing of habitat RESTORATION, thanks to the various West Coast National Marine Sanctuaries and the work of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. (That's what legislatures are supposed to do - pass laws that protect and preserve all kinds of life.) The silent awe we see and feel as we walk, like Jesus, beside the sea- REVERENCE.

RE seems to look to the past - do it again, take us back to times of blessing and plenty when we more respected all of creation. RE-store us to an attitude of gratitude. 

But RE is also about a passion for the future - we do this rebuilding and healing and work of setting apart not for us, but for generations to come.

RE-peat after me - we are called to revere, restore, reserve.  Thanks wise guys.
____ for info about our youth service trips and adult pilgrimages on Monterey Bay – a day, a weekend, a week.  I post these ocean devotions every Wednesday here and on Facebook.  Come and Sea!