Since hearing John McCutcheon’s Leviathan years ago, written after his first whale watching experience, the desire to see them for myself was planted.
This summer, after finishing my two month cross-country music tour, my spouse and I signed up for a whale watching tour off the coast of Monterey Bay because the [grey/humpback] whales were feeding. The night before we packed and headed south for our day trip, I sat down at my hammered dulcimer and did my best to play some of the themes that McCutcheon had written, to get into the mood.
Driving down highway 1 from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz, we had our first sighting–right from the coast! A big plume of mist from the exhalation of the creature’s blowhole, followed by its large flukes before it dove. Because I was driving, Connie saw more clearly than I but both of us were excited and fulfilled, even if that would have been all of the whales we had seen for the day.
But, were we in for an amazing experience!
Once we got out of the harbor and the bay, just off the point of Pacific Grove, we saw some other boats and as we drew hearer, all of a sudden the gulls started gathering and wheeling and diving. Then the water began to foam with writhing bodies of sea lions, then! the curving dark backs of the whales began to appear, with fountains of misted air, then the uniquely colored and notched flukes of their large tails gracefully curved up out of the water and then disappeared beneath the waves as they dove and the surface became relatively calm again.
The naturalist on board the ship was very impressed and with each new appearance of this pod, she took note of the mother and calf who seemed to arrive on their own, but then the group seemed to have 12-15 whales, who were all cooperating in this uncharacteristic group hunt. (At least, uncharacteristic in terms of human observation!) They began to use the boat as part of their hunting scheme. The naturalist described the symbiosis of the whales, sea lions and gulls and the feeding on the fish that would keep them throughout the winter before they headed out for their breeding grounds.
Before we headed back in to the harbor, the whales began swimming right along side and beneath our craft, to our delight and sense of anxiety–these beasts are HUGE! But, thankfully, they were gentle with us.
I was and continue to be in awe of Leviathan, the creature of the deep, who, according to the Psalmist, was made by the creator, “for the sport of it!”
(Watch and listen to John’s composition below: let me tell you…his composition, and rendition, certainly echo my experience!)