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Taylorsville Journal

Dive into the Taylorsville lecture series. First up, swimming with whales and sharks

Aug 07, 2022 08:35PM ● By Karen Hooper

By Karen Hooper | [email protected]

 A fantastic opportunity for adults to continue learning is through the Taylorsville Virtual Adult Lecture series. Shelly Ward and Ellen Thayne, two librarians at the Taylorsville county library, started this lecture series that is unique to Taylorsville. It started as an in-person event, but then due to covid it was switched to online. And the benefits of it being virtual have kept it that way.

“Everyone got used to learning online because they had to,” Thayne said. “Keeping the lecture series online allows more people to come, more flexibility of our lecturer, and people to attend from all over.”

“We have even had relatives of the speaker show up on the webex and the speaker had no idea they were going to be there.” Ward said. “It’s really neat because some relatives don’t get a chance to hear them speak, so this gives them that opportunity.”

One of the guest lecturers in July was a man named James Moskito who videoed in from Northern California. Guests from several states came to watch him share his story on swimming with the largest animals in the ocean and one amazing rescue of a humpback whale.

“One of the things we do is, I take people out to see big animals, primarily great whites, tiger sharks, whale sharks, hammerheads, bull sharks, and all the good fun stuff.” Moskito said. “So that’s what my focus is, is large, large animals underwater.”

Moskito went on to explain that the photos he takes of the sharks he passes on to researchers and they can ID them to see who’s there and how long the sharks stay there. But Moskito doesn’t just take pictures of sharks.  

In December a few years back, a humpback whale got into a bit of trouble when he got caught in several crab traps in the waters outside of San Francisco. The ropes had entangled this whale, who was nearly 40-50 feet long, all over his body, from his tail up to his mouth. Upon receiving the call of the distressed whale, Moskito and his team got in their boat and went in search of the whale. Once they found him, they could see how bad it was.

“I estimated there was about 20 crab traps total surrounding the animal and basically this 45 foot humpback whale was hogtied to the bottom of the ocean.”

Moskito then described how normal life-saving measures would not work due to weather and sea conditions. The only option they had was to get into the water themselves and start cutting away at these ropes. Visibility that day was only about 15 feet, which meant Moskito and company had to swim really close to the humpback before they could even see him.

“I kept on swimming, getting closer and closer. Swimming in the pea soup-like water and all of a sudden the pectoral fin came up out of the water and it was about 15 feet high and four feet wide. It came out of the water and when it came down it was about six inches from my head.”

It was uncharted water, that’s for sure. The four divers backed up a bit, wondering what to do. They let about 15 minutes pass and then the whale's eye came above water.

“And at that point the whale was looking at me and it saw me looking at it. And then I slowly swam over there and I was able to put my hand next to the whale and it calmed down. It was a very humbling experience.”

Once the four divers introduced themselves to the trapped whale they began cutting the ropes. The team cut at the ropes for nearly three hours. Once the whale was free it slowly started swimming around the team.

“It was a very joyful moment.”

Moskito said the absolute best part of the experience was after the whale was freed it started swimming right for him, it came right up to him and stopped at his chest. And then it nudged him, nudged him over and over again.

“And this is a moment I will never forget. If you’re a pet owner, and you put your hand down, it’s like your dog grabbing your hands so you can pet him. This whale was coming over and nudging me back and playing with me.”

This incredible story, Moskito so kindly shared virtually to 30 people or so, was amazing to hear. It is such an amazing story that it was turned into a book called "The Eye of the Whale," by Jennifer O’Connell.

“These lecture series are meant to give adults an easy way to continue learning so they don’t feel stagnant,” Ward said. “I like to refer to them as broccoli for the brain.”

The lecture series is a great way to learn about a variety of subjects. Like this amazing shark story, there are fascinating lecture series that vary from bee keeping to horror movie music. “The lecture that was most popular was interviewing a BYU professor who studied Gary Larson, author of the Far Side comic strip. We had over 200 people attend that lecture,” Thayne remarked. “People are very generous with their time and knowledge.”

This wonderful adult lecture series is free. All you need to do is register through the library using Eventbrite. They are typically held twice a month and the librarians try to find lecturers based on time of year, trending topics in pop culture and holidays and anniversaries.

“We had a Russian Literature expert come lecture on the anniversary of Dostoevsky’s death, that was really neat,” Thayne said. “Except it was really hard to ask questions to the expert because some words were hard to pronounce.”

With these adult lecture series being virtual, there is no limit on how many can attend. It is a fantastic way to learn more about fascinating subjects. Here are some lectures coming up: Fashion History: It’s So Much More Than Clothes!, Digital Folklore: Contemporary Legends on the Internet, and The King of Horror: Stephen King’s Novels, Adaptations, and Thematic Concerns. If they are half as fascinating as James Moskito, you don’t want to miss them.


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