Day 12 |
Sep 28, 2008

At Sea

By Chris Srigley, General Naturalist

I jumped from bed this morning with hopes of a day with a slight wind, blue sky and gentle swell. What greeted me was far from this thought. Sadly, even with temperatures showing 20°C, we were encountering a strong wind, white caps and a heavy cloud cover that seemed to threaten rain at any moment. Nonetheless I headed out onto deck, donning a sweater (which I haven’t needed since being in the Arctic aboard Prince Albert II earlier this summer) and began watch, along with Brent Stephenson, in hopes that the wind and the waves would bring us some great sea bird sightings. Wind and waves like this do make whales difficult to spot.

Enduring the biting wind for what seemed hours, we heard the call from our Expedition Leader Suzana to join Christian Walter in The Theatre for his talk: “Art Deco & LA”. With this we gladly ran inside to hear of Art Deco, its beginnings in Europe, how it encompassed various fields of art and décor, and the way in which America embraced this art form. Christian ran us through several slides depicting architecture, advertisements and paintings from the early to mid-1900s.

With the morning wearing on, I peered outside in hopes that our weather was changing. There it was – the sun peaking through the clouds – a hopeful sign of a change in our fortune. I headed on deck in hopes we might have a few guests braving the winds for the excitement of spotting wildlife…but after a few minutes in the wind, again I decided it was time to run in and grab a coffee and warm up. With this I headed back to The Theatre in time to catch a portion Bob Rubin’s lecture: “Sharks & Rays”. Bob took us through a slide presentation of the Elasmobranch fishes found in the Gulf, strange creatures like the Hammerhead Shark and Giant Manta Rays. Having seen what I did of his lecture, I walked away feeling as though I wanted to know more, and can only assume the rest of our guests would agree. A wonderful presentation on some fascinating creatures of the sea.

After lunch it was time again for Brent and I to head out on deck as our hopes and wishes had been granted. The sun was breaking through, the wind was diminishing and all of this combined made outside all the warmer. We were able to pull some guests from their books and head out. Oh and what a treat it was! After an hour or two of scanning the horizon several blows from whales were seen in the distance. To our port bow, at 1030, there were several blows, which, by their low bushy and forward angle, we recognized as Sperm Whales. However, directly off of the bow, was a large, columnar blow, which indicates a larger cetacean. With this, it was decided to first check on the single whale. What a choice we had made! As we approached our whale, several of the Expedition Team had gathered and identification was made.

After a disappointing attempt for our last Zodiac cruise, and two days at sea, we had bagged the big one. We had the largest mammal to have ever lived right in front of us – a BLUE WHALE!!!! An announcement was made and all the guests rushed onto deck for this once in a lifetime sighting. Of all the things we may see when we are at sea, this is what you dream of. Suzana put it well into perspective when she mentioned her number of years on the ocean and the number of times she had seen Blue Whale. This was only her fourth Blue in twenty years at sea. With some fantastic maneuvering by our Captain and the team on the bridge, we were able to get great views for about half an hour before deciding it was time to leave our friend on its own and resume course for LA. When watching a Blue from the ship it is hard to imagine that this creature can gain weights of 400,000 lbs and reach upwards of 100 ft in length. A true, gentle giant of the sea.

With that, I returned to my stateroom and prepared for our final recap and slide show from our onboard photographer Val. Val had put together a wonderful presentation of our trip. A great memory for all to take home to show their friends and family!