I thought I'd start out with something funny!
Looks like I’m into a once per month blog post. I’m pretty certain that will change as soon as the whales start coming in. There have been some humpbacks seen in my grid but not enough to warrant using any of my funding.
Today is my 71st birthday. I am grateful for my good health, my family and my friends – and this incredible life I live here in Baja Sur with “The Whale people”.
Me at one Me at 71
On the 29th of October I received an e-mail from my good friend Roxanne in San Isidro that there was a humpback in front of their place. After further inquiry it was determined that it was coming my way, had passed their place no more than 5 minutes earlier and was about ¼ mile out. I grabbed my gear, scrambled down the bluff, launched my kayak and was out in the area within 10 minutes. I was pretty sure I was going to see it because they generally don’t travel very fast (4 miles per hr) and if they are in that close they usually stay at that distance. It was a beautiful day and then after waiting a few minutes I heard it’s blow. It was not one, but two, both adults and coming right towards me. They were still a good mile or two away but no question they were humpbacks.
I had plenty of time to maneuver as they approached so I could be directly in front of them. After two more blow series they were no more than 200’ away and then they submerged but no flukes up so I presumed it would be a shallow dive. I figured they would come up again within 50’ of my kayak at most. I put on my mask and got ready to dive in as soon as they blew. NADA! They “disappeared”. That has happened to me less than half a dozen times in all my years with the whales. If they had come up within a mile or more of me I would have heard them or seen their blows. My guess is that they found a nice current to glide in and were just cruising with it and had little need to come up for air. They are known to be able to do that for up to 45 minutes. By that time they can be just far enough away to rise again unseen. Disappointing of course (first humpbacks of the season and close but no encounter) but as always I felt gifted to see them at all. 10 days later Vicente saw one in front of Punta Pescadero so they are around but it is still way early in the season.
The weather has begun to change. The north wind has started to blow, bringing cooler temps to us here in Baja. Cooler being in the mid-80’s. The wind makes the seas more turbulent so visibility for diving is lessened and of course kayak time restricted. Nevertheless, about a week ago I had a great dive on the reef, I’ve never seen so many fishes and of all kinds of species, plus the water was very clear. I got to see two turtles over the reef too. And then on a second kayak shortly after, I came across two Pacific Common Dolphins who came to investigate and I got to swim with them for a bit…..always a big treat!
Pacific Common Dolphins from last year
The next night I had a whale dream. The whale dove just before getting to me and as he passed he came so close I could touch him. We looked each other in the eye and I swear he was smiling at me. I needed that dream because the one just before had been of me watching the news with a group of people in a large auditorium and the news was all bad…very depressing.
On the 18th I got a message from the village that a whale had washed up on shore about a mile south of me. I took my camera and found that indeed it was a whale. The interesting thing was that it was a Beaked Whale. We don’t see them often at all and though I was sorry it was dead I was interested as a biologist. I sat with it for a while to connect with it’s spirit and then took some photos.
Lesser Beaked Whale
I sent the photos to Dr. Urban at the university in La Paz and he immediately sent out 4 grad students the next day to do an examination and collect samples for the lab. It was a “Lesser Beaked Whale” and from the examination it was difficult to tell how it had died. It was a mature male around 10-11 feet long.
From left: Pablo, Lorena, Carlos and Sergio
PhD candidates from Universidad Autonoma de La Paz
Over the years I have met many of Dr. Urban’s students and these, like all those before, were the most gracious and courteous young folks one could imagine. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with them and watching them work. All four are candidates for their PhD’s in Marine Mammalogy.
Speaking of Jorge, he had this up on FB the other day. Is this cool or what?? Talk about rare!
Now for a bit of history, some of it very personal, but nothing inflammatory or dark – I don’t think?
A ‘hero” in the truest sense!
50 years ago, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, second-in-command Vasilli Arkhipov of the Soviet submarine B-59 refused to agree with his Captain's order to launch nuclear torpedos against US warships and setting off what might well have been a terminal superpower nuclear war.
The US had been dropping depth charges near the submarine in an attempt to force it to surface, unaware it was carrying nuclear arms. The Soviet officers, who had lost radio contact with Moscow, concluded that World War III had begun and two of the officers agreed to 'blast the warships out of the water'. Arkhipov refused to agree - unanimous consent of three officers was required - and thanks to him, we are here to talk about it.
Making hero’s out of everyone in uniform is a media hype to generate nationalism. It is now, and has always been, demeaning to men and women in uniform. Occasionally someone IS a genuine hero – Vasilli Arkhipov qualifies.
Russell Means - an American hero
Another Hero who died last month of cancer at 72 is Russell Means - Ogalala/Lakota, straight talker, defender at Wounded Knee, a good man. Check out this memorial to him.
Most of you probably weren’t a part of AIM (The American Indian Movement) but you may remember him as Chingachgook in the movie “ Last of the Mohicans” - a story that galvanized my childhood interest in everything “Indian”.
This is an ode to my mom and dad. “I am now 71, your son has grown up, done mostly good, helped create two new and delightful souls in The Universe, and I just want to thank your memory and all the really, really beautiful and generous guidance you gave me.”
My mom and dad on their honeymoon - 1938
No more than three years after this picture was taken, WWII began. My father was deported to a Siberian Labor Camp to later be conscripted into the army of The Soviet Union as part of The 8th Estonian Rifle Corp on The Eastern Front. He was in combat for two years, survived but returned to find his entire family dead or escaped to Sweden. He and I met for the first time in 1976 when I was 35. I had two weeks with him, and in that short time I discovered what a good man he was.
My mom and dad 35 years later meeting for the first time since the war
Here they are again, 35 years later, he remarried in Estonia, my mom stayed a single woman all her life after he was taken. She was a devoted, supportive but not suffocating mother – she was a good woman. I am honored to have been their son.
Ixmael's first Halloween
Here’s the little guy Ixmael from an earlier post - on his first Halloween just this year
Ixmael's mom, Jessica
Ixmael's mom, Jessica
This reminded me of my mother and some other women I have been fortunate enough to have known.
BTW: I have a new mailing address. It is a contact address and whatever mail goes there will be a long time coming to me.
C/O Bill & Gloria Symon
516 Patricia Lane
Palo Alto, CA 94303
A couple of weeks ago I was feeling very emotionally low and shared that with my kids, this is what my daughter Kersti sent – perfect, what a sweetheart.
As always, “Que les vaya bien"
Please donate what you can to my efforts to protect our east pacific humpbacks, the work must go on!
Donations can be made out to MioSah at:
C/O Susan Janssen
106 Canyon Dr.
Ukiah, CA 95482