Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Finally, Whales

After awhile, we moved away from the Common Dolphins who had surrounded us. We were heading back towards land, our cars, the end of the tour. We hadn't seen any whales but had be so amazed by the dolphin activity that the experience seemed completely worthwhile. We knew that there was no guarantee and that it wasn't even likely we'd see whales.

Then, "Thar She Blows." One of the passengers had seen a spout and the ship's crew confirmed we were in the presence of majesty. There were two or three gray whales in our vicinity. They moved the boat towards them, wanting to get close enough for us to get a good view but making sure not to spook the whales. Unlike dolphins, whales will swim away from boats if they are alarmed by them, they told us.

Making things even more difficult, we were moving towards submerged animals. From the surface, no one knew where they were or exactly when or where we might see them next. They told us that after taking a breath, gray whales dive and usually wait seven to twenty minutes before surfacing again.

So, we all stood out on one side of the ship, practically holding our breath, hoping to see something. I started to wonder if we hadn't spooked them or misjudged their direction, if we were even looking in the right direction, if I was ever going to see a whale when they spouted again.

I saw it. Then, I clearly saw the tail of a whale diving and then another tail. Alright, now I have really seen a whale.

We continued waiting and the whales would resurface again and again and again.

The time between sightings was five minutes plus. And since we didn't know where we'd see them, I didn't even try to take pictures. I figured I'd be lucky to see them with my own eyes and decided not to try to force any of my own sightings into a view finder. (photo credits to come)

My brother, however, was able to point his camera towards where the whales were and record a video. It isn't the same as seeing them in person but here is footage of the whales we actually saw.
It was a remarkable experience but it was still difficult to see much of the whales. I'm glad we didn't get closer and basically left the whales alone. I'm learning that the best whale watching I'm likely to experience will be while viewing a video or looking at photos the professionals take.

After awhile, I left my brother to go find Sam and watch the whales with him for a bit. When I found him, he was over it. He'd grown tired of straining to see the whales and was ready to hang out in the cabin and eat M&Ms. I was happy to be there with him.

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