Splashed by Whales

Part Two: Time to Book
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two orcas
Mother, J10, and son, J18. Mom is 37 years old, her offspring 21.

From here the guides suggested we continue down the shoreline. "Well, we might as well do something," I thought. "We've two more hours to kill." But we hadn't paddled for more than a few minutes before Zach's radio went off. After consulting it, he turned to us and said the whale boat, a distant spec on the horizon, had found a whale, heading toward Canada.

Inez and I turned out from the shore and raced to intersect the whale. "There!" shouted Inez when we were still about a half mile away. "See the fin?"

I saw nothing. It was like when my father described a pheasant amidst corn stubble, or an elk's head peering out from behind a tree. Unless you've seen it before, you don't know what to look for.

"Time to book!" I shouted to Inez. We paddled faster and felt no strain. I looked around and the rest of our pack was way back. We had a small chance and we had to go for it.

As the lactic acid began to build up in my arms, I saw something. At our distance it still only looked like a black finger rolling over into the water. But it was headed our way. We'd come out beyond the corner of the island and in the great southern beyond a long snow dappled line of mountain appeared: the Olympics. Our kayak surged forward fueled by the surrounding splendor and anticipation.

We covered the next three blocks quickly, guessed we were in the right neighborhood, rested our paddles and studied the water. "Too bad we didn't bring any whale chow." I said to Inez.

"That's all right," she replied, "I will just use love."

And with that, she raised her hands and began wiggling her fingers at the water, like a magician pulling something out of a hat.

"Pphhoooooo!" announced the orca, as he parted the water at the very spot. He surfed by us in all his splendor and we were dumbfounded.His eyes were focused straight ahead on his.He rolled over and sounded.

"Oooooh-la-la!" shouted Inez, "I can't believe it." We watched him move closer to Canada, up-over-down, stitching his way north.

When we stopped vibrating, we looked around and saw our flotilla a half mile south, between us and the shore. In the water behind them we could just make out the foam wash of two more whales approaching. Just before reaching the other kayaks, the whales dove. Inez and I both guessed they would surface somewhere between us and stared for the first breaking wave. We were both wrong.

Phoooooooo! came up on our back side. There they blow. As we turned, we could see their tails power them back down and the waves rocked our kayak. They were heading off to join that first male.

Wow! What a show. We thought it was over. But it had just begun. We tried to locate where they were by their blowings, which sounded like some champion swimmer doing the butterfly had just surfaced on your shoulder. But since the sounds were jerking us around in every compass direction, it occurred to me that this clarion call was echoing off the islands around us.

"We are surrounded by whales!" Inez realized first. There were orcas entering the passage to the south and leaving it at the north. Plus, on either sides of us animals appeared. As the parade passed by us, we tried counting fins, as they quickly flipped over.

"One, two, three, four. . ."

Our count was interrupted by a calf that came flying out of the water, wiggling in the air.

At first I thought it was a black fish, but no way would that prey be hanging around here among these predators that rule these aquatic surroundings.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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