Tuesday, December 3, 2013

it felt sacred to me

A few years ago, someone spotted a whale off the coast of southern Sri Lanka, and people held their breath. Yes, more whales, lots of whales. Sperm whales, blue whales, right whales. And so a tourist industry was born to go alongside the surfing and general beach vacation opportunities here. When I learned about this, I got almost sick and dizzy, I so wanted to go. I so wanted to see whales, living whales. I've seen sperm whale skeletons several weeks ago at the Museum of Natural History in New York (and I wrote about it here); I've watched documentaries and television shows about whales; of course I've read Moby Dick a few times, and remain so thoroughly moved by that book as only a bookish person can be. I've wondered what is it about whales? What is it? Their size. Their intelligence. Their singing. Their mystery. Their elusiveness -- you can't see a blue whale at Sea World. And they're mammals, like us.

And so last night we arranged for a tuk-tuk driver to pick us up at 6am and drive us to nearby Mirissa, where the whale boats depart. I didn't sleep last night, couldn't sleep, hoping I would get to see a whale. Hoping and dreaming and trying to be still even though I felt so carbonated about it all. We got on board and pulled away from the harbor around 7am and my cheeks ached from grinning.

the harbor

you have NO IDEA how excited I was

Marc, happy to go with me
and off we went, out to the deep sea
Pretty quickly we came upon a sea turtle plugging away, heading for shore. Even though it was surprisingly large, and even though I tried to get several shots of it, I wasn't successful -- the waves seemed to block it just as I'd snap the picture. Then we crossed paths with a pod of dolphins:

I had to keep reminding myself not to be jaded -- "JUST" dolphins -- how ridiculous of me!
I was on a boat in the Indian Ocean and I saw dolphins leaping past me, and that's amazing.
Of course there's no guarantee that we'd see whales, and after we passed the dolphins we went for quite a long time seeing nothing but the horizon and the other whale boats full of people hoping for a sighting. Marc and I thought that surely we'd have seen one by that point, maybe we wouldn't get to see one, and then the eagle-eyed crew got excited and started pointing:

they were really good -- the captain would say to me, "he's getting ready to come now," and I'd look
where he was pointing and see nothing. and then there he would be.
right whales -- we didn't see any breach or tail-slap, unfortunately
all the boats cut their engines and we sat there in silence, watching. there were whales underneath.
it felt like church to me, all of us gathered in silence, waiting.
there's another one. we saw several, including a mother and baby.
By the time we'd been out for 3 hours, more or less, we'd seen only right whales -- no blues, no sperm whales. But suddenly the captain cut the engine and we all sat, floating in silence. He told me there was a sperm whale in the area, it dove down about 40 minutes earlier so it should be up again in five minutes or so. A sperm whale -- Moby Dick -- I got so excited I felt like throwing up. We waited and the crew watched, both sides, straight ahead, watching and watching. Suddenly one of them pointed at the horizon straight ahead -- there it was! We could see the spout, and it was so far ahead of us, on the horizon, so I can only imagine how enormous that spout must have been. He turned on our engines and we went in pursuit, but the whale stayed that far ahead of us, blowing his spout over and over. One of the crew said, "He's running!" Finally he went tails-up, we could even see that from so far away -- he must have been tremendous -- and when he dove down, our trip was done. I didn't even try to take pictures, I just wanted to watch it with my own real-time eyes. A sperm whale.

everyone crashed after the intense hours watching for whales. it made me laugh.
When we were near the harbor, we came upon a little fishing boat with a great big catch -- no idea what kind of fish it was, but check this out:

a good day of fishing, for sure!
I am so happy, and feel immense gratitude for having the chance to be on this trip, for having the opportunity to go out on a boat looking for whales, and for having the experience of being as close to them as I was today. Marc and I plan to go to Alaska in the near future, where the chances of seeing whales breaching and tail-slapping is even greater. Lucky mud, lucky me.


  1. Oh Lori ~ what an adventure ~ How exciting for you

    1. Thank you Gail! It really was a wonderful adventure. xoxoxo