Elegy for a Whale Fall – Poetry


Image Credit: Illustrated by Conor Nolan


Dies behemoth of the ocean

Where it is cold and deep and open.

Plunging past the twilight zone;

Drifts where sun has never shone.


In abyssopelagic darkness,

She intrudes long-standing starkness,

Drawing creatures miles around

As plush carcass hits the ground.


Sleeper sharks arrive in hours;

Flesh and blubber they devour.

For lithodae and rattail fish,

She becomes a banquet rich.


Mobile scavengers have their meat

And in their wake behind they leave

Osteo remnants of her form

For octopi, polychaete worms.


Opportunists find nutritious

Fallen sediment and detritus.

Molluscs and crustaceans burrow

Into her residual marrow.


Tender morsels are depleted

Once the eelpouts all have feasted.

Hollow, silent, and aphotic;

Decades lying sulfophilic.


Bones bear sulfide in the era

Of chemosynthetic bacteria

Yielding dense microbial mats that

Mussels, clams, and worms get at.


Organic compounds are exhausted,

Leaving only minerals solid.

Sessile feeders in her sleep

Build a kingdom’s umbral reef.


She brings to desolate deep-sea floor

Abundance for centuries and more,

Sustaining life so vast as though

Two long millenia’s marine snow.