Friday, December 7, 2012

Story Extract: Saving the Whales

Gina had met Dr. Armand Guillaume as a graduate student in marine biology.  Starstruck, she immediately made the first of many gaffes, calling him the Jacque Cousteau of the 21st Century, a moniker which he was widely known to despise.  He was annoyed and she was humiliated, but something moved him to give her another chance.  A bond quickly formed, the type of friendship that can only emerge from a shared obsession, and it only intensified with time.  Armand was Gina's teacher, her mentor, her friend, and the one that held the key to her dreams.

The new species was called Guiallume's whale in the popular press.  It was named in Armand's honor, as per tradition.  Yet, the official name that Armand pressed for was Balaenoptera leviathanus--the Leviathan.  Gina rolled her eyes when he told her, but he'd come back with a simple question:  what species could be more deserving?  The blue whale, the largest animal previously known to exist, could reach lengths of 200 feet and weights upward of 130 tons.  Guiaullume's whale was estimated at 500 feet in length, and as it seemed to have similar dimensions to the blue whale, they'd estimated its weight at over 250 tons.  And that was being conservative.

There was debate as to whether it could be classified as Balaenoptera at all.  Living at such depths, it was doubtful that it could ever surface to breathe, as light would be entirely alien to it, and the lower pressure levels at shallower depths would almost certainly kill it.  It would then be the first known cetacean to have adapted to living permanently underwater, extracting oxygen from the water like a fish.  It appeared, based on its body shape, to be a whale descendant, but perhaps the resemblance to Balaenoptera was due to convergent evolution.  It was impossible to say without more data.

Yet, to Gina's frustration, she found that no one was all that that interested in discussing the whale with her.  Reporters were only interested in scandal, but it wasn't hard to guess why.  Gina was a good-looking girl in her twenties, the All-American Sweetheart.  Armand was nearly fifty, but he was handsome, tan, and as fit as a man half his age, with hair that was still deep black aside from a touch of gray at his temples.  But Armand preferred blondes and Gina preferred men who could never make her feel stupid.  Gina dismissed the rumors at every turn, as did Armand, but it did little to stop people talking.  She said to herself, if only they would talk about the whales.  But it was futile, and she knew it.

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