The Whales Go By

Blue sky, sparkling sea, marine mammals.

Bright Sunday.  The Pacific is calm after days of high winds, whitecaps, pounding waves.  Yesterday a storm swept through, and shore birds were restless.  

Today there's a feeling of excitement and peace.  The birds seem more settled.  The ocean surface is calm enough to see dolphins swimming by, black blacks and dorsal fins glistening in sunlight, making their slow way along the coast.  The sea lions continue barking--the sound is haunting at night, or in the fog, but somehow joyful during this brilliant day.

Most exciting for me: the sight of spouts a few hundred yards out.  The whales go by, gray whales on their annual migration north.  A few years back I had the unimaginable pleasure of spending time with the whales in their winter grounds, Laguna San Ignacio--beautiful, pristine, unspoiled, thanks to the efforts of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"The Whales Go By," by Fred Phleger, an oceanographer at WHOI and later Scripps Institution of Oceanography, was one of my favorite books of childhood.  Perhaps my lifelong love of whales began in those pages.  One of the best Christmas presents I've ever gotten was this now vintage and out of print book...lovingly searched out and given to me by a good friend I'd told of its deep meaning to me.

Books and stories can change the lives of young readers--and old readers, too.  Today I read a friend's essay on friendship and fishing, and feel transformed.

Back to marine mammals: aside from the whales swimming by, I have an orca in my bathtub.   Katie Jones, cetacean researcher and friend of J-pod in the San Juan Islands, tells me it's a transient.

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