My ancestors earned their living from the sea and today I was going to follow in their footsteps; I was going whale hunting!
As the trip progressed I watched in fascination as the crew practiced the same skill as my ancestors had all those long years ago. They knew the routes that the whales followed; indeed their charts were marked up with the routes and types of whales. Shallow and deep areas that they frequented were also identified. Sure they now had the benefit of radar and sonar but the knowledge to put us in the approximate area where they expected to find them was the same knowledge as they used all those years ago.
The captain had heard of my background and extended to me the great honour of taking the wheel of the ship as we tracked our prey. It is hard to express in typed words the sense of destiny as I laid my hands on the ships wheel. I could almost hear the voice of my ancestors whispering in my ear, “Steady as you go Tom, watch the compass, watch the horizon for any signs and keep an eye on the weather.” The hunt was on and I was loving it.
And then it happened………………”whale”, rang out. Immediately all eyes were directed to where the crew member was pointing. I just caught sign of it disappearing below the surface but we had one, all that remained now was to get within range.
I asked the skipper if he wanted the wheel with more than half of me hoping that he would say no, you take us in. With a rye smile he said he would take the wheel and I better get ready as we might only get one shot at it.
I rushed outside and helped to get the equipment ready. At a steady pace we closed not on the point of last sighting but where the skipper thought it would resurface. All of a sudden, without any warning the whale broke surface. “Now” was shouted from the wheelhouse and a dozen or more cameras flashed and whirred. The moment was caught on digital cameras for prosperity.
Sure we were using knowledge of how to hunt whales but this time we weren’t intent on killing them but rather capturing their antics on film (for the purists, we were capturing an imagine on a digital camera and not on film). The skipper of the boat was using old knowledge but within a different context. The knowledge of how to track and find whales had been handed down from one generation to another. It had been written down in charts and notebooks. It was still being used and added to even today. But the context had changed and whales were no longer killed for food and that knowledge had not been passed down. New knowledge had been created; how to position a boat to get the best pictures.
Sometime we need to put knowledge behind us knowing that the context in which that knowledge was created and used in no longer in existence. But sometimes knowledge that we don’t think will be of any value in the future can be retained and applied for commercial benefit in a different context.
What knowledge that you currently think has no commercial value could be valuable if applied in a different context?