National Geographic : 1976 Dec
GREAT GEYSER spewed close aboard, a fluke the size of a dory broke the sur face, then disappeared. I still recall vividly that day thirty years ago when Irving Johnson's brigantine Yankee chanced upon whales in mid-Atlantic. I knew, and tried to understand, why men of another time had hunted such creatures, for their bounty of oil and bone. But awed by the sheer beauty, grace, and incredible power of these animals swim ming free in their own realm, I could not-nor can I now-condone such action. Must they be killed today? For what marginal purpose? In recent years those questions have ignited an international controversy and effort to end the commercial hunt, conducted chiefly by the Soviet Union and Japan, which last year slaugh tered 34,000 whales and this year will take 28,000 minkes, sperms, seis, fins, and Bryde's. The popular outcry against commercial whaling has focused on the annual meetings of the International Whaling Commission, which sets voluntary quotas on what whales to hunt and in what numbers. A spate of new books, antiwhaling organizations, boycotts, and bump er stickers culminated in a recent unsuccessful drive to have whaling nations agree to a ten year moratorium on all killing, while scientists seek more knowledge of the cetaceans. For, in truth, we know little about these colossal creatures, and our ignorance only fuels the controversy. Thus one expert can cite the quotas adopted by the IWC in recent years, and the growing list of protected species, and believe that no whale species today is in real peril of extinction. Another can greet that dec laration with skepticism. And while one man can regard confrontations at sea between whalers and protestors as meaningless drama, another can view such efforts as heroic last ditch attempts to stop the slaughter. On one thing, all seem agreed. The natural legions of whales have been dealt a devastating blow in the past century, under impact of the explosive harpoon and the fast catcher boat. The blue whale, like the American buffalo, nearly became extinct. No one can tell if those that remain can restore their numbers. In the articles that lead this issue, and on the double-sided map-painting that supplements it, we have tried to present the facts as they are known. Yet I feel that no one reading them can escape the conclusion that the whale has become a symbol for a way of thinking about our planet and its creatures, and in that, at least, there is hope of a better day for both whales and men. .^Cfc^1tsY > rC THENATIONALGEOGRAPHICMAGAZINEVOL. 150, NO. 6 COPYRIGHT© 1976 BY NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY WASHINGTON,D.C . INTERNATIONALCOPYRIGHTSECURED December 1976 WHALES OF THE WORLD i-The Imperiled Giants 722 Earth's largest creatures have paid dearlyfor sharing the same planet with humankind, reports William Graves after a global survey. Ii-Exploring the Lives of Whales 752 Marine biologist Victor B. Scheffer assesses efforts to learn more about these huge, sea-roving, air-breathingmammals efforts that may help assure their survival. Jackson Hole: Good-bye to the Old Days? 768 Residents of Wyoming's spectacular valley, camping place of the early mountain men, change their minds about government controls as they battle overdevelopment. By Francois Leydet and Jonathan Wright. First "Family" of Early Man 790 A three-million-year-old tragedy comes to light in Ethiopia as scientists unearth some of the earliest ancestors of modern man yet found. An expedition report by Donald C. Johanson, with photographs by David Brill. To Torre Egger's Icy Summit 813 A vertical spire of rock and ice in the Andes is scaled by three U. S. climbers, Jim Donini, Jay Wilson, and John Bragg. Square-rigger Voyage from Baltic to Bicentennial 824 Kenneth Garrettjoins the crew of Poland's Dar Pomorzafor the tall ships' Atlantic crossing and salute to America's 200th birthday. Australia's Bizarre Wild Flowers 858 Paul A. Zahl photographs the fantastic plants that time and isolation have produced. COVER: Collisions mar the start of the tall-ships race from Bermuda to Newport as a fleet under sail gathers to honor the U. S. Bicentennial. Photograph by Gilbert M. Grosvenor.