Sign In using your Campus Account

‘Scientists Count Whales From Space’


At night
we listen to the crackle of antennae
as we track populations.

10 million species



slow, shallow swimmers,
pale against wavelengths.

Image analysis shows us
55 probable, 23 possible pixels
driven to extinction.

We should monitor more.
On this screen where lost things
are un-found, automated systems
surprise us with depletion.
Scientists can count whales from space.

Satellite data is wonderful.
We wait at the screen,
watch small planes circle false positives,
their wings loosening
like errors in a parched sky.




“This poem came as a result of the Hackwriting workshop with Alex Macdonald. The original draft was a combination of snippets from a BBC article about scientists counting whales from space and a poem about locusts I’d written 3 years previous. The poem has gone through many reincarnations, with changes in line breaks, stanzas rearranged and favourite lines ejected. For example, I loved the phrase ‘tracking the trajectories’ from the original BBC article, but realising it to be a serious trip-hazard for any future poetry readings, it had to go.

I’ve often wondered how anyone knows when when their poem is finished. In my case I simply keep editing and editing and editing until it dawns on me that I much prefer my first draft. In the editing process I often impose what I call a ‘fancy spacious layout’ on the poem.  In my head, by creating space around and between the words, there was hope it might even look like the pixels on a monitoring screen.”


Add your Reply

Image Credits:

Image: Sighting of whales migrating south, Howard Creek Ranch, near Westport in California.

Image credit: John Krzesinski