Background to Song of the Wadi Hitan
This background to a recent discovery in
Egypt and a most gracious introduction to my poem in his blog was written by
Michael Parker and are reproduced here with his permission. Thanks, Michael.
Click HERE to read his blog.
It's a good one. Pris
Once upon a great time, speaking in the range
of millions of years ago, oceans and inland seas covered most of the earth.
Through the centuries, these seas have dried and their seabeds have become great
deserts. One such desert is the Wadi Hitan in Egypt. And this week, the Wadi
Hitan made international news.
Geologist Philip D. Gingerich and his team
discovered the first known "complete" skeleton of one of the earliest
known whales, the Basilosaurus isis. The Basilosaurus is 50-feet-long and
estimated to be 40-million years-old.
Geographic highlighted this find, describing the Basilosaurus:
The first of the truly gigantic whales,
Basilosaurus had the serpentine shape of a sea monster and short, sharp teeth
for hunting sharks and other prey. Unlike today's whales, it had no
blowhole—the ancient behemoth had to raise its head above water to breathe.
What's more, Basilosaurus still had the feet it inherited from its
Wadi Hitan, which means "Valley of
Whales," teemed with sea-animals. The University of Michigan article on
this latest find reported that the Wadi Hitan "included five species of
whales, including the Dorudon atrox, presently exhibited in the University of
Michigan Exhibit Museum. There are also three species of sea cows (Sirenia), two
crocodiles, several turtles, and a sea snake, in addition to a large number of
fossilized sharks and bony fishes."
The U of M article shows a skeletal
representation of the whale. You can see graphic by reading "U-M
team recovers ancient whale in Egyptian desert."
A few days ago, I
introduced you to one of my favorite contemporary poets, Pris
Campbell. This week, she was impressed to write about the discovery of the
whale in the middle of the Wadi Hatin. She has given me permission to print her
exceptional poem here for your review. (Thank you Pris!)