Working Together for the Common Good

A group of Humpback Whales swims in the waters near Juneau, Alaska

A group of Humpback Whales swims in the waters near Juneau, Alaska

In Juneau, we went on a whale watching tour.  We saw eagles, sea lions, and the group of Humpback whales pictured above.  While we were watching we saw the whales dive, and a few minutes later they surfaced at the same time, mouth open wide.  We were amazed and even the marine biology students that were our guides were excited to see this behavior, which they saw only rarely even though they were on the water daily.  Scientists call this behavior “Bubble Net Feeding”.  The Juneau Humpback Whale Catalog describes Bubble Net Feeding this way;  “To summarize the bubble net technique; a group of humpbacks will dive down to herring schools where one whale (the bubble-blower) will release a ring of bubbles from its blowhole as it spirals beneath the prey. As this air rises to the surface, it creates a curtain of bubbles that acts as a physical barrier to frighten and retain the school of herring. Simultaneously, another whale in the

A group of Humpback Whales surface while Bubble Net Feeding.  (Photo credit- Fay Schaller)

A group of Humpback Whales surface while Bubble Net Feeding. (Photo credit- Fay Schaller)

group will produce resonating vocalizations, which also act to frighten the prey and trigger them to school up in tight balls within the bubble net. The whales then orient below the schooled fish and lunge, mouths open, to the surface through the center of the bubble ring, or bubble net. This motion drives the fish to the surface, where they are trapped from all sides (the surface of the water above, the bubble curtain on the sides and the open mouths of whales below). The whales will break the surface of the water in unison with mouths wide open, and then close their mouths while roll at the surface as they force the water from their throat cavity out through their baleen plates; the sieving process which allows them to swallow their catch without having to swallow excess saltwater.” Juneau Humpback Whale Catalog

It was amazing to witness this behavior.  Unfortunately, since we never knew where the whales would surface, I didn’t get a picture of it, even though we witnessed it several times.  The photo of Bubble Net Feeding is from a thumb drive of pictures purchased at Glacier Bay National Park and was taken by Fay Schaller.  But the most interesting thing I learned about Bubble Net Feeding is that the group of whales is unrelated and that it is passed from one generation to another.  “Most incredible of all, this behavior seems to be passed on from generation to generation, and between unrelated groups of humpback whales. The only other mammal known to pass on collaborative feeding behavior among unrelated groups? Humans.” (source: http://www.imagesandinspiration.com/archives/1088)  The group of whales we witnessed included a Humpback Whale calf following behind the adults by about 100 yards witnessing and, presumably, learning this behavior.

I thought that if unrelated whales could come together for the common good, why can’t humans?  But in congress, the democrats blame the republicans and the republicans blame the democrats and little is accomplished to move our country forward.  In the church, one group threatens to leave and split the church over one issue.  Where is the common good in these things?  Why can a group of unrelated whales work together for the common good and yet humans cannot?

But when we do work together great things can be accomplished.  One of the churches I serve hosts a monthly breakfast on the fourth Sunday of the month and collects donations to help with local, state and global mission needs.  Yearly over $10,000 is collected to help others!  Just from breakfast!  When we work together, great things can be accomplished.  If Humpback Whales can work together for the common good, there should be no limits to what humans can accomplish when we work together to make a difference in the lives of others.

Questions to consider:  When have you seen people come together to make a difference in your church, community, and nation?  What is God calling you to do to work with others to make a difference in your church, community, and nation?

 

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