Having a Whale of a Time

The shrieks and whoops of delight looped around the boat as another hump backed whale breached the deep blue surface of the Pacific, lunge feeding on anchovies, mouth gaping, filling its massive yaw with tens of gallons of water amidst which hundreds of small fish had been trapped. The huge, barnacle encrusted head splashed back into the sea; a signal for whirling spirals of Western Gulls, Common Murres, Sooty Shearwaters and cormorants to home in on the spot in a frenzied swarm to pick off those few fish that had escaped the surge, floating stunned and disoriented; easy pickings for myriad sharp beaks.

A blast of spouting water as the whale exhaled: a wash of rancid, foul smelling air smothering the boat and it was gone, diving once again to herd the anchovies towards the upper layers of the shallow waters of the bay. Sometimes a small group would work together, synchronising their lunges, creating such a spectacle that only a wildest dream could imagine. We were surrounded by feeding monsters and didn't know which way to turn. The birds, thousands of them of many species, screeched and screamed: sea lions, dolphins joined the feast. We simply stood on deck and watched. Blessed that this once in a lifetime spectacle was ours in which to revel; exceptional circumstances had created ideal feeding conditions in shallow water close to shore allowing a few people on a few days to experience something even the skipper of the boat, a hardened, weathered soul, had seldom witnessed. And this excursion may well have been the last to be so favoured since strong winds and a turn in the weather was forecast for later in the day, forcing cancellation of further trips until conditions improved.

For two hours, which seemed as a few minutes, we soaked in the scene. The sounds, the smells, the sights. The salt laden sea breeze blasting the face, the wing tips of shearwaters surfing the tremulous undulating waves, the wailing of gluttonous gulls, the ceaseless flow of life darting all around seeking to make the most of the spoils of the bounteous depths. How more alive do you need to be?


  1. Once again - thanks Barry for sharing the wonders of nature in a far off place. It's like having our own special corespondent on site just to report on all the things just for us.
    Keep 'em coming!

  2. Thanks Richard, it was a memorable experience. Tell you all about it over a pint soon.


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