Revisitation • The Electric Narwhal • open edition giclée print


The Electric Narwhal

open-edition giclée print

Your hair stands on end as blue current ripples through the clouds overhead.

A storm is coming, heralded by crashes of thunder punctuating the songs of the cloud dwelling beasts.

To witness these mono-tusked, high-voltage mammals burst into open sky is a rare gift.

Ever since I was a kid, the narwhal has been, by far, my favorite sea creature.

It is followed, in no particular order, by the seahorse, the Orca (killer whale), and the truly alien Japanese spider crab. The last is called タカアシガニ in Japanese (Taka-ashi-gani), which translates rather uninspiringly to long-legged crab. Yes, it even beat out the mythic giant squid and its ten tentacles of fury.

I never bought into this “unicorn-of-the-sea” nonsense. For one thing, the narwhal is real, not some silly, prancing, couldn’t wake up on time to board the ark faux-pony. If you’re gonna go with a fantasy equine, spring for Pegasus. Flying easily bests whatever flickery sparkle magic the unicorn can shake out of its horn.

Most fascinating is how little we know about the narwhal.

We’re still theorizing and making discoveries. The fact that the tusk is, technically, a really long tooth doesn’t diminish the beast’s mystique at all. It does make me think that there’s a lot of cash to be made in narwhal orthodontia.

Scientists postulated in 2014 that the tusk/tooth/horn is primarily a sensory organ. If I understand correctly, seawater enters the horn, swishes around for a bit, passes through a magic field, and the narwhal’s heartbeat speeds up or slows down. This tells the creature about temperature and chemical changes, and if any lady narwhals are nearby.

A bit later in 2016, it was found that the horn could be used for echolocation. Sonar. One ping only.

Even more recently - about a week ago - drone footage (!) suggests that the tusk is used in hunting. Not for spearing fish, obviously - the narwhal has no hands with which to remove the speared fish and put them into their mouth. Rather, they bludgeon fish with the horn. The fish, utterly flabbergasted at being whacked with a unicorn horn, then submit to being eaten. This seems to be a secondary use - if you’ve got a tusk, you might as well hit someone with it.

Naturally, the aerial, Cumulonimbus-dwelling Narwhal species differs in that its horn generates an arc of electric current. This high-voltage bolt is more accurate, more dangerous, and quite a bit more surprising than a simple clobbering.

A pod of The Electric Narwhal prints splash back into the shop today.