Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On January 18th I took a few friends out to look for whales and I have been awaiting photos from that day to include in a post. So here they are with a nice little story to go along.

One of the nice things about living down here full time is that every now and again some really special old friends come through and I am able to give them a rare experience. What I call, “The Whale Experience”. This does not necessarily mean diving with them, though many have, but it does mean getting closer to Humpbacks and Blue Whales than is possible for most people. My reward for this is not only their pleasure but also my belief that they will then become “friends” of The Cetacean Nation and spread the word about the wonder of these fellow earthly travelers. Since starting to do this since 2004 I have had the pleasure of introducing dozens of old, and new, friends to The Cetacean Nation.

So about 3 weeks ago these old friends, and one new one, were in the area, the winds were right, and we went out. In anticipation of possibly diving with them they all suited up before the adventure.

From left, Susanna Pepperwood, Laura Hamburg, Addison (?) and Carrie Hamburg

I can’t remember exactly but I think we saw some dolphin, turtles and Mobulas but my recollections dim as I get older. We did however indeed cross paths with a Humpback Whale. This guy as a matter of fact.

HB# 2 11, "Laura's Whale

I call him a guy because we had the distinct pleasure of coming across a “singer”. This is a male Humpback carrying last years song of The East Pacific Humpbacks and inviting some new verses (or introducing them) from other male Humpbacks and/or just announcing his intention to engage in combat for a lady this year.

To hear the song of The Humpback in real time is a treat that I continue to find almost too much to bear in it’s beauty. We could hear it clearly on the surface and vibrating through the hull of the panga. He was clearly near, and to me, announcing his willingness to meet. After getting my ID shot (I was so wanting to go in that I rushed my shot so it is not a world class shot but…I’m only human) I turned to my friends and said, “I’m going in, suit up if you are coming”.

Within minutes I was ready and I saw that of the group it was Laura Hamburg who was going to join me. What I didn’t know was she had never had a mask and snorkel on or worn a wet suit….we are talking novice, and she is going in to 500’ of water in front of a full on 40 ton Humpback…oh well, she’s a grown woman! I tell her where to sit on the gunnel of the panga to do a reverse flip into the water and ask her if she has done this before (talk about a stupid question) and she say’s no. Well, we are nearing the whale and I am explaining to her the technique, she is nodding as though she is just about to do her first dive into a pool and we go in. I tell her to look for me right away, clear her snorkel and mask and there we are with the whale coming at us.

Laura hamburg and I......and HB# 2 11

We do this twice and get within about 50’ of the whale but visibility is bad. Nevertheless, that whale was within a distance of us that it knew full well our position AND ATTITUDE, and gifted us with a close pass. Here are two pics of Laura and me in the water after the whale has passed. I really admire the willingness and courage of this young lady to do this. It reminded me of how proud I was of my son Zack last year when we dove into a veritable circus of three male Humpback fighters and their 40+ Bottlenose Dolphin audience (and raucous to say the least) and he also never having done anything quite like that before!

Two other recent adventures (my but the year is full of excitement already) to relate. On the 9th I went out and did get a “world class” ID on this Humpback. Ain’t it a beaut!

HB# 3 11

Shortly after the above photo we received a call from El Cardonal on the radio that there were some Humpbacks in front of the village. Vicente and I high balled over and found this mom and calf. The mom is HB# 4 11 and the calf, HB# 5 11.

First mom and calf for me this season.

The next day I go out and find no Humpbacks but when we go further out into the Blue Whale Zone (8-15 miles) we come across two Blue Whales. What makes it special is that two new friends, Lon & Liz Fitton from Los Barriles are with me and get to have “The Whale Experience” with these very cool critters. The day was beautiful, the Sea calm, The Whale cool and I went in. Same old problem, visibility, but Vicente said I got REAL close, maybe 20-30’….I could FEEL it, just couldn’t see it underwater.

B# 1 11

So….the adventure continues, can’t wait to see what’s over the next horizon.

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