Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive! - Vol. X No. 3 - July 2001


Salt & Friends

By Dan Knaub


The incomparable wonder of living whales is superbly demonstrated in Salt & Friends, a marvelous video documenting the lives, multi-decades histories, and personalities of fifteen individual North Atlantic humpback whales summering at Stellwagen Bank, near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Bar Harbor, Maine.

Salt & Friends dramatically validates the new economic reality that whales alive have greater value than whales dead. It makes real the dream defining the future, long-term relationship between humans and cetaceans as one of peaceful coexistence and mutual enrichment.

The video is a labor of love, presented to show that whales especially deserve our protection from whaling nations. CSI is proud to present this exceptional tape as a gift to each IWC Commissioner at the current and critical meeting that may reopen commercial whaling. We agree with its creator, Dan Knaub, that no one with an open mind should be able to see this tape and not see the unique values of whales, and be moved to protect them.

- William Rossiter

I saw a need for a program like Salt & Friends due to the increasing efforts of whaling nations to bring back commercial whaling. It was alarming that even nations that gave up whaling decades ago were back. Where Japan and Norway killed about 130 whales in 1988, they are now killing more than 1000 and going after more and different species.

Bequi started killing humpback whales again several years ago. Humpback whales that spend more than ten months annually in U.S. waters travel to Bequi for just a few weeks, perhaps seven at most for breeding and calving. There is no justification for killing these or any other whales.

I believe that whales are special animals and deserve to be treated as such. No one forgets their first meeting with whales and instantly become emotionally attached.

Whaling nations argue that whales are just a resource to be managed. They say that you can kill a certain number every year without harming the overall population.

My view after spending more time watching whales both in person and on videotape than most people in the world is that whales are individuals, with distinct personalities, varied ways of doing the same things and strong family histories.

There is only one Salt, one Sockeye, and one Colt. Even if it were okay to kill just one whale, that whale could be Salt, the first whale given a name and looked at as an individual. Salt has eight calves and two grandcalves. She brings each calf up to boats at some point but never approaches boats in the years she is alone. Sockeye has had a hard life with a deformed jaw, killer whale rake marks and even big dents in his upper jaw. But he has learned to survive. Colt is an ambassador for the whales, giving the thrill of a lifetime to whale watchers by getting so close to boats that they can't leave to go back to the docks on time.

Salt & Friends was written to show whales as individuals deserving of our complete protection from harm, especially from whaling nations.

How was it made possible?

We videotaped over 14,000 whale-watching trips since 1988. The whales were taped on Stellwagen Bank and near Bar Harbor, Maine. We joined three whale watch operators over the last thirteen years and sometimes taped from as many as five boats daily.

The footage was logged in by behavior and names of individually identified whales. While most of the footage was of humpback whales, a number of individual right whales and fin whales reside in our stock library.

Why was this project developed?

Most individuals and every show I watched looked at whales as a homogenous group, much like goldfish in a bowl. When I was just a whale watcher like everyone else, I was amazed at scientist's and naturalist's ability to tell me the names of certain whales. Early on, it appeared that although they had names and some had calves, they still were amazingly similar and acted much the same.

Five years and 5000 trips later (I edited the trips so I saw all of their behaviors), it became apparent that they had different methods of doing the same things and acted differently around boats and people.

Much of this was very evident on our tapes. I became interested in Arrow and adopted her through the Whale Adoption Project before The Whale Video Company was established. On two days in 1988 I was on the boats when we came up to a feeding whale. It was Arrow! I can't describe the feeling I had when we were with her. Exuberant jubilation doesn't come close.

From that point on I knew that other people were excited about individual whales, and I met them just about every day.

Salt & Friends was in the planning stages for nearly four years and footage from every one of the thirteen years we filmed was used. Some things we wanted to show were just once in a lifetime events.

I thought it was important to show Salt and Pepper together since they were named at the same time. Miraculously, we had just one trip where you could see their dorsal fins at the same time. It is a prominent part of the program. I also felt that for many whales, seeing the fluke pattern on most of the television screen was necessary. I spent more than ten hours alone, searching tapes with Pepper and never did find a fluke pattern that satisfied my strict requirements.

Reggie (Regulus) hits himself and it is amusing at least to humans. Although most of the early footage was logged in if it was extraordinary, some was sitting there like a hidden jewel. I just happened on the best footage of Reggie hitting himself by accident while searching for footage of Sockeye.

Whales in the program

Salt & Friends tells the story of fifteen individual humpback whales found in the Gulf of Maine. There are eight females and seven males. Counting calves and grandcalves, the viewer is introduced to more than 50 individual humpback whales.


To obtain a copy of the Salt & Friends video, contact:

The Whale Video Company
PO Box 1052
Mechanicsburg PA 17055-1052
USA

Phone: 717-763-9507
Fax: 717-763-0943

Web: http://www.whalevideo.com/

To the U.S. and Canada: $19.95 plus $4.05 shipping. To Europe and other overseas addresses: $34.00 (ship by air) total. Mastercard and Visa are accepted. Include the 16 digit number, the expiration date and the name of the cardholder.

Let them know that you heard about Salt & Friends from CSI.


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