The Day of the Blues

 — Urmas Kaldveer

... I would enjoy telling one more "whale Tale".

Some years ago the non-profit marine research corporation Pelagikos offered two one week classes through Mendocino College on board the 84 ft sailing schooner Dariabar in the Channel Islands off of Santa Barbara.

It was the second voyage that was most extraordinary. As our guest scholar was Elisabet Satouris, biologist, writer (From Chaos to Cosmos) and world traveler, recently returned from Peru. While in Peru she was the apprentice of an Inca shaman who suggested to her to bring the whales music, laughter and joy.

When she met us in Santa Barbara she had with her an assortment of drums and a digeradoo (an Australian Aboriginal instrument of amazing simplicity and unearthly beautiful sound). Upon telling us what the Shaman had told her, we all decided that there was no reason not to approach these beautiful creatures in this manner.

We had quite a sail from Point Conception to San Miguel Island and when we finally anchored we were pretty worn out. The Santa Barbara Channel can be a moody body of water and we happened to catch her in a mildly poor mood.

The next day was spent enjoying the almost pristine character of this, the western and northern most of the island chain. The captain and I took the time to bask in the sun of a most glorious day under the palms planted there to "polynesianize" the island for some scenes in the movie Mutiny on the Bounty some years before.

The next day we set sail for Santa Rosa Island and an area we had begun to call "whale City". This was an area of the Channel beginning at the southern tip of Santa Rosa Island and extending to about midway down the lee side of Santa Cruz Island. It was here that we had encountered a number of Blue and Humpback whales on the previous voyage.

It was another beautiful day with almost flat seas and perfect whale spotting conditions. Things began auspiciously when two large Humpbacks (we were sure that were drawn by our joyous and loving moods) passing a half mile to our port side and going the opposite direction, turned and began to follow us. They came directly astern of us and slowly began to close.

We were delighted and gave out with words of endearment, shouts of welcome, and in general letting them know of our delight. They responded by swimming to the very edge of the hull astern and then floated on top of the water while we hung over the gunnel and looked deep into their eyes and felt their magnificently benign energy. After some time they turned and left, leaving us with a feeling of spiritual awe and grace.

We believed that this first encounter vindicated our approach so we decided to amp up our activities. First we put a hydrophone in the water so we could hear the nearby whales. A hydrophone only records sound, it gives off none of it's own. Then Elisabet brought out the didgeradoo, and my students got the drums out.

Elisabet went down below into the tank room where we keep our electronic gear so she could hear the sounds made by the whales. Her intent was to mimic their sound with the didge, blowing it against Dariabar's steel hull and amplifying it.

I was on deck sweeping the horizon with my binoculars to determine what effect this display might have. It was not long before we were rewarded far beyond anything I had ever imagined.

As Elisabet played her didge against the hull, and we began to pick up clearly replying Blue Whale sounds, I saw coming at us from all points, Blue Whales. I called below for all hands to see this truly wonderful sight, and as everyone gathered, seven of the more than a dozen that were now very nearby, began to swim around the boat in an ever tightening circle.

The circle closed until the whales were nose to fluke and just inches from the hull on all was incredible! Everyone was running around the deck admiring their grace and size, and giving out the purest love between human and whale I had ever experienced.

At one point the current generated by their movement created a vortex in the water around Dariabar and we actually began to turn in their wake. They were playing with us, and we responded with shouts of love and joy.

I will remember this moment most fondly because of one of our crew, Tyson Adams. He was at the helm during all this time and as I glanced back in his direction I saw him standing with his eyes closed, a beatific smile on his face and his strong right arm feeling the bodies of these creatures as their movement effected the rudder and the one spoke of the wheel upon which his hand rested.

We returned from that voyage different then when we left, we had been gifted by mother earth, and a part of us would forever be tied to the "Blues."