COMMENTS: Whale Tales

CBS has made the plight of that pair of humpback whales an almost daily story since their migration got sidetracked by a fresh water trip to Sacramento. Sandra Hughes filed her fourth report on the saga as the pair returned to the salt water of San Pablo Bay while her colleague John Blackstone has offered a further three. ABC, to its credit, has treated it with the disdain it deserved, mentioning the animals only in passing. NBC's George Lewis chose a refreshing angle, covering the human mammals watching along the shoreline rather than the marine mammals in distress. "Perhaps the most wayward whale was the humpback named Humphrey," he reminisced, who spent almost a month near Sacramento back in 1985. Lewis showed a clip of himself on NBC Nightly News pursuing that same old wayward whale beat in 1990. "There is something about these animals that tugs at our heartstrings," he mused--or, if not there, at least quickens the pulse at the TV news assignment desk.

With the end of the whale tale seemingly in sight, CBS sought elsewhere in the animal kingdom for its closer and settled on the 17-year cicadas emerging in Illinois. "The bugs are back by the billions," announced CBS' Michelle Miller, as the 100-decibel mating drone has forced the Ravinia Festival outdoor music hall to "reschedule an entire month of concerts." These insects are animals with "a single mission in life--to dig themselves out of a hole, shed their skin, climb a tree and let nature take its course." Yet most fail to mate since cicadas are tasty and tend to get eaten en route. Entomologist Mike Raupp of the University of Maryland popped a live bug in his mouth to show what the rest of us is missing: "They are delicious!"


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