03.23.23 Physty the Whale

Dear Friends,

The library is already making arrangements for Summer Read, and I believe the words, “Can you believe we are almost halfway through with March?” have been spoken at some point during that planning. For me, time always seems to move a little faster during spring. Maybe because of the anticipation of summer, Skidompha’s busiest time? Or maybe because the gentler weather entices me outside more?

I will be going on vacation starting on Thursday, March 23rd. I finally have a chance to get some of that Vitamin Sea I’ve spoken about in the past, and I plan to make the most of that opportunity and find my way down to the Island of Dominica. Research has shown me that Dominica is a favorite hangout for Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus), and I hope to realize a life ambition and hang out and swim with these extraordinary animals.  

Please indulge me for a quick story about my fascination with these whales. In April of 1981, Physty, a young Sperm between the ages of 3 and 6, attempted to beach itself on Coney Island, NY. Police were initially successful at coaxing the whale back out to sea, but sadly it was found the next day in rough shape in shallow water at Oak Beach. Physty was towed to a boat basin at Robert Moses State Park on Fire Island, where it would hopefully recover. 

At that time, Physty’s “hospital room” was only a half hour’s drive away from my home, and my Mom, thoroughly aware of my infatuation with all things marine, took me to see this beautiful animal. (Thanks, Mom!) As hard as it is to make a young child speechless, seeing this twenty-foot-plus whale so close to me and resting at the water’s surface, blowing occasionally was enough to remove all the words in my mouth. Joy and amazement swept through me. I remember it was breezy and chilly that day, but I probably would have jumped in the water were it not for Mom’s presence.  

Lots of antibiotic-laden squid, and a few days of convalescence later, Physty, healthy enough to be released, was escorted by the Coast Guard out of Fire Island Inlet and into the open ocean and freedom. Years later, it was reported Physty, identifiable by unique scars on its caudal flukes, was seen swimming with a gam of Sperm Whales in the Atlantic. 
While I don’t rate my chances of seeing Physty in Dominica, you can be certain I will ask the local whales if in their travels they have met with another whale with a wild story about visiting Long Island over 40 years.  

Be well,

Matthew Graff
Executive Director
Skidompha Public Library