Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Close Encounter

Announcing himself with a burst of spray, the humpback rises out of the water beside of our zodiac. Terns chatter overhead, the surf crashes the shore, the sea herself slips off the humpback’s glistening skin like a whispered caress.

Forty-five tons of muscle, body over 50-feet long, he arches and dives. The water around the zodiac swirls. He circles us, rises, sprays, lifts his back, and slides beneath the gently rocking waves.

“How close do you think he came?” someone says, voice low, eyes scanning the water.

Close enough to reach out and touch, I think. This idea is unsettling. I am suddenly aware of how small we are—four of us in a boat no wider than one whale fin.

“Here he comes again,” one of my companions shouts and points. He skims beneath the boat, and I imagine that I am reflected in his eye.

The humpback floats underneath our zodiac, white belly shimmering in the blue water. He stretches his fins as though he is measuring our little craft. I hang over the side of the boat. His slender fin extends well beyond the edge of the zodiac. His rippled chin is just beneath the bow of our boat. In my head I hear a song. A tear wells in my eye, but I cannot tell if it is because the song is joyful or sad. Perhaps this is just the feeling of being present in the moment, focused, in awe.

Again he emerges, but farther this time. When he arches his back, his tail rises. I wave.

I search for words to express my gratitude, some sound that he will know, but I have none. If I stay here long enough, I will end up not able to talk at all.

(Many thanks to Stacie Murray for allowing me to use her wonderful pictures.)


Brian Mandabach said...

wow. amazing, Kate!

Anonymous said...

Oh! That is just breathtaking. You are so expressive. Thank you for posting this--this is just gorgeous. And the tear at the end--perfect. This is just glorious and all of us are lucky to vicariously enjoy the experience with you.

Anonymous said...

On the news the other day they mentioned how they used the Zodiacs to transfer people from the cruise ship. Because of you--Katie-I knew what they meant. Thank you.

kate keeley said...

I've picked up quite a few new words myself down here.

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