Spermaceti (Part Two) – Taramea Bay / Aparima Riverton

“On a Mish” #304 Spermaceti (Part Two). Taramea Bay. Aparima Riverton. 18.5.2024. The largest nose on earth belongs to the Sperm Whale and within this huge, cavernous snout is a liquid known as Spermaceti. It is believed that it helps with not only the whale’s ability to dive to incredible depths, but also the return journey to the surface. I didn’t know that fact or much else about Sperm Whales, but after a journey south to Aparima Riverton I not only increased my ocean animal knowledge, but also got a chance to get up close to one of the largest creatures on the planet…

After scrambling over the small creek, Dan, Dee, me, and Georgie made our way northeast towards the Oreti Beach section of the massive sweep of Taramea Bay. This is part of the Te Araroa Trail, meaning everyone walking this will wander by the whale. This was Georgie’s first trip to a beach and first time seeing the sea. Her senses were almost overloaded, and I could tell her mind was blown by all of the new sights, sounds, and smells. And speaking of smells, we were lucky to be up wind of the whale as the scent was rather pungent!

On the way we encountered a couple of cars, one of them owned by a mate of Dan’s that he hadn’t seen in nearly 20 years! Every now and then we get reminders of the years ticking away. Seeing a big 4WD next to the whale gave us a sense of scale, and we could tell it wasn’t a little fishy.

We finally got to the whale and immediately felt a sadness floating in the air. This giant cetacean deserved better than this, and what made it even sadder was the fact that some heartless thieves had stolen the jawbone, cutting it off with a chainsaw. Tohora (whales) are highly respected and when one washes up on the shores of Aotearoa there is an important ceremony that takes place. Here the whale is honoured for its powerful mana and shown respect in death. It is during this ceremony that the jawbone is removed. Unfortunately, this fifteen-metre beast’s jawbone will become jewellery or other such things that will be tainted in dishonour.

After spending time marvelling at the giant creature, we began our hike back along the beach to the car. The chill of the wind wasn’t helping my hip and back, and I was surprised how sore I was getting from walking on reasonably flat ground. Also, the fact that I had a dog who wants to go every direction except forward wasn’t helping the cause! I had to hand Georgie over to Dee for a while so I could concentrate on the journey.

In the end we had walked a few kilometres, and after getting back to Dan’s house a rest was needed before I could do anything else. The walk was an eye-opener to what coldness does to my broken bits. A cup of tea and chill out was needed, and it was during this down time that we began to do some research about the sea-going mammal we had just seen.

The big question of ‘Why are they called Sperm Whales?’ was first up, and this is when we learnt about spermaceti, the oil-like liquid found in the nose of Sperm Whales. It turns out that the Sperm Whale is one of the most interesting creatures in the sea or on the planet. One of the deepest divers, biggest nose, complex language, and loudest sounds of any animal on earth were just some of many amazing facts. We could see why the whale was so important to Māori here in Aotearoa, and it made us even more angry about the theft of the jawbone.

A ceremony for the great cetacean was still in the works, and it was good to know he (she?) would still have the proper blessing known as Te Ata Hapara, the awakening or moment before the sun rises. The mana of the Sperm Whale is strong, and we could feel it when we stood beside it. I am very grateful that not only did I get the rare opportunity to see an animal that usually lives as far away from humans as possible, but I also got a chance to join a mother and son who have both helped mound me into the Nepal loving, outdoor addict that I am today. Thanks for the epic mish, Dee and Dan, I always enjoy moments around your mana. Powerful mana like a great Tohora that swims free in the deep blue sea

A Chilly Morning in Aparima Riverton

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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