you should have seen the one that got away

gray whale shallow waterMinette and I headed to Langley today in search of gray whales. We anchored a few feet off shore so that we could check email, and then I said something clever like "Let's go find us some whales." I looked up and saw some mist hanging over the water beside the boat. Ordinarily, I'd think it was a blow, but it was 10 feet from folks' back yards. 25 foot whales don't swim in 12 feet of they? But then again, what was that mist? I strove to articulate the varied nuances of the situation.

"Um. Minette. What the fuck is that?"

And then the whale appeared, swimming right where we happened to anchor, between us and the homes from whom we were stealing broadband. In impossibly shallow water.

gray whale pectoral fin

I snapped 30 blurry pictures plus the ones above. Minette got some even better shots of its pectoral fin as it rubbed in the shallows; I'm sure it's being posted as we speak. It was a great day, filled with as many dives and spy-hops as we could bear. Again, Minette's spy-hop pics are better than mine, but I'll share this one since it looks sort of like my fakes from last year.

grays 18mar06 073.jpg

The best spy-hop was a complete surprise. We had lost our whale for a good 15 minutes, which in this pursuit is an eternity that compels one to do defeatist things like dropping anchor and declaring "Lunch!" I was sniffing my sandwich to ascertain whether it was the one with mayo or mustard when this enormous black monolith of a head elevated out of the water outside my window, towering over my boat. There's no picture, of course, but it was pure magic. Having a creature of that scale take an interest in you is like no other feeling. Of course, the magic dissipates when he swims toward you and you remember the anchor line under your boat, but we won't speak of those moments of sheer terror.

My photographic claim to fame is a remarkable sequence of photos that I just can't bear to shrink down to 390 pixels. Here's one, but if you have broadband, definitely check out the whole sequence.

gray whale spout flukes dive rainbow