We were in Sweet Pea Cove near Santa Rosalia. It was after ten and the cove was quiet as I lay on the bed in the aft cabin completely absorbed in a good book when Bill tells me he thinks there are dolphins outside. I hold still, listening but can’t hear anything through the hull so I scramble out on deck.
Soon an almost full moon will reflect bright silver off the water and light up the little cove almost like daylight but now it’s pitch black dark. I stand still listening and realize the dark water is definitely not still or quiet. I can hear water lapping at the beach, a fish jumps, a bird cries. All around me a thick marine layer of low fog is already creeping in and soon will coat everything with dew. In the morning the bees will come, drawn to the fresh water. I hear the distinct splat splash of a leaping ray and then a breath.
My mind see’s whale but my eyes and ears are still searching for dolphin. No clicks or whistles and then the breath again: too big for a dolphin. The night feels soft and thick. My eyes keep searching but instead are drawn to the flash and twinkle in the dark the water. The night’s phosphorescence is unusual. Normally we see trails. Whenever a fish moves we catch the swish of a trail lit up with phosphorescence. Tonight instead there are thousands of tiny twinkling bits. The phosphorescence sparkles and shifts with every movement of sea life. Like fairytale snowflakes it sparkles and shifts below the surface.I hear the breath again. How far off is it? I move to the bow of the boat and stand alone and silent while my eyes adjust to the lack of lights. In the distance I can see the slight golden glow of Santa Rosalia. There is the breath again, closer, closer, then moving off again in the distance. The fog seems thicker now. The night is alive with sounds. I keep thinking about what it would feel like to hear all these sounds around me on a passage, then imagine what it would sound like if I had never been on the Sea before.
I hear the breath again. How far off is it? I move to the bow of the boat and stand alone and silent while my eyes adjust to the lack of lights. In the distance I can see the slight golden glow of Santa Rosalia. There is the breath again, closer, closer, then moving off again in the distance. The fog seems thicker now. The night is alive with sounds. I keep thinking about what it would feel like to hear all these sounds around me on a passage, then imagine what it would sound like if I had never been on the Sea before.
More breaths, I am sure now that it is a whale. Then, a sound like a gunshot -the whale is breaching somewhere out there in the dark- then again.
Three days ago as we moved from the marina at Santa Rosalia to Sweet Pea Cove we came upon a sight we had never seen before: ten or more sleeping Sperm whales. Spread out in two’s and threes we could see them off in the distance as the sun reflected off their backs. At first they looked like huge logs but I knew we were far from the land of logs. As we motored closer I could see a spout here then there. They weren’t reacting to our presence at all. Then as we got close enough to see them clearly they would slip backwards, great heads lifting up and then slipping beneath the surface before rolling forward and down into the depths. Each new group we neared stayed still until we were nearly upon them and then slip back, great head lifting, roll forward and down into the deep.
Tonight it sounded like just one. Was the whale I was hearing now a mighty Sperm whale? Another smash and a splash then one more breathe then nothing. I stood on the deck listening for a while but heard nothing more. As I moved below again I wondered what kind of a whale it had been. How many were there? Why do whales ? Why would a whale breach in the darkness? Did he know I was there?
Grabbing for my book I scrambled back onto the bed thinking about whales and life. Every new wildlife experience here in the Sea shows us a new piece of nature and every new cultural experience shows us another view of our world. This whole experience surely has been the chance of a lifetime and tonight I feel grateful.