Diane Hine

Silver Star - 4,143 Points (25 July 1956)

The Carpenter Fish - Poem by Diane Hine

The Sperm Whale's sucker-scarred head was fixed on slaughter
of dark-inked squid, twice hid in depths below.
Her blow hole flooded with draught of icy water
and froze the oil which kept her bulk afloat.

She sank, skin wrinkled, crushed in vice tight clenches,
her flexing ribs collapsed without a creak.
Her sonar click explored the abyssal trenches
and honed in on her prey with rising ‘creeeeek'.

Three quarter hour, she plundered the cold black larder,
to rise she flushed waxed oil with blood warm heat.
Her steady clicks discovered a creature harder
and massive, riding the surging ocean's sheet.

The stressed joints loudly creaked in the wood hulled whaler,
all night the rolling ocean gave no sleep.
The sore joints silent creaked in the seasoned sailor,
all night his hammock swung at angles steep.

Below wind's mournful song and the rigging's clamour
the sailor heard a knocking from the deep.
'Ah Carpenter Fish, d'you wield your strange wrought hammer,
to shape this ship my coffin or my keep'?

Two centuries gone, when whaling men stood prouder,
they heard the strikes, yet wondered at their source.
No other beast of air, land or sea calls louder,
a back pulsed, skull reflected, clanging force.

So the sailor listened, awed and far from scoffing,
for unknown sounds at night can make men quail.
The Carpenter Fish surveyed her own wood coffin
and unaware, drove home another nail.

Poet's Notes about The Poem

In the 1800's, Whalers used to attribute the hammering on the hull to the unknown ‘Carpenter Fish'.
Air travels along the Sperm Whale's right nasal passage to the ‘monkey lips' organ which clap shut and produce a click.
This travels back through the spermaceti organ and is reflected from an air filled sac on the radar-dish shaped skull.
Lastly, it travels back through the amplifying ‘junk' organ to the front of the head and out into the water.
It may be over 200 decibels and heard up to 40 miles away.

Comments about The Carpenter Fish by Diane Hine

  • Valerie Dohren (8/20/2012 7:13:00 AM)

    Interesting and informative write - good one Diane. (Report) Reply

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  • Captain Cur (8/20/2012 6:32:00 AM)

    Great research and stunningly portrayed as a sea story/poem with clarity, depth and feeling. (Report) Reply

  • (8/19/2012 10:22:00 PM)

    Brilliant Diane, a yarn, a scientific journey and natural and cultural history intricately threaded into a tapestry of 2 interwoven cultures. Sad but terrific last sentence, with sentence being the operative word. (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Sunday, August 19, 2012

Poem Edited: Sunday, August 19, 2012

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