Day of the Blues
I would enjoy telling one more "whale Tale".
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
circle closed until the whales were nose to fluke and just inches
from the hull on all sides......it 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
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.
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.
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."