My awesome card is full.
It was a Lola-palooza whale kind of day.
I am numb.
These are the words that escaped my lips during the two hours I spent aboard the Ultimate Whale Watch
with Captain Ryan and his crew of one, Noni.
My friend Bryan kept exclaiming, “Oh. My. God.” And “Oh. Oh.”
This is highly unusual. This is not the norm. I am almost afraid to publish this experience.
The most often heard word on most whale watches is, “Blow.” And, indeed, that was the word I heard repeated again and again last night. As in, “Single blow. Three o’clock.” Or “Double blow. Ten o’clock.”
But today was not a usual day. It was highly unusual. Bizarre, really. So bizarre that neither Captain Ryan nor Noni, the naturalist,” shared more than 10 facts combined about the humpback whales populating Hawaii’s waters during our winter season. Truth be told, I can only remember one morsel of fact. And it had to do with breaching.
Because “breach” was the word for today—Tuesday, February 5, 2013. A day I will never forget.
I filled one memory card and had to borrow a second from Bryan. I captured images of Lola—the boat named her Lola—breaching away from us, breaching toward us, breaching down the coastline, breaching left, breaching right, breaching completely out of the water, breaching halfway out of the water, breaching, breaching, breaching.
Let’s talk about what it takes to propel a 45-ton, 45-foot animal about the size of a school bus out of the completely water: About two flicks of the tail. From as little as 100-feet of water. I know. I saw it.
Good golly. Holy guacamole. There are not enough adjectives. Not enough exclamations. Not enough words.
We caught images of the underside of her tail again and again. So many times that the picture of her unique pigmentation--her thumbprint, as it were--is etched into my mind, an image that requires no pixels for me to remember.
It’s still a little hard to imagine. “This is so surreal,” I said. Again and again. Pinch me, someone.
Our two-hour whale watch ended before Lola did. We saw her breaching in the distance as we motored back to Lahaina. We got out-whaled by the whale.
Oh, the fact that Ryan and Noni shared was that when whales breach, in the process, they slough off pieces of dried skin. Breaching, it seems, is a kind of exfoliation. Because for humpback whales, Hawaii is like going to spa. Other fish—like the flying kind known as malolo—follow humpback around, just like we do, waiting for them to breach. Flying fish, just like us, live for whales to breach.
If I never see another humpback whale gather and launch its whole body out of the water again in my whole entire life, I will be just fine. Really and truly. Because I had today.
But I’m going back tomorrow. And Thursday. And Friday. Because it’s too late to cancel. And, why not. I’m here.
One last thing: Thank you, Lola. Thank you. (But it is going to take days to process all the images—more than 1,200.)