The whale watching tour with Captain Rob and his crew, a charming young lady called Claire, on the occasion of our stay in Port Townsend was a very special experience. While my wife and I had been wondering between the two of us the night before whether the golden nuggets we had to pay for our four seats on the “Red Head” for a four-hour tour would be worth the sacrifice, we were so happy afterwards that we had made this investment. It turned out to be a life marking moment for our children and us.
As we take off in the morning at 10 am with Rob, Claire and roughly 30 other passengers, the sun shines high above the Puget Sound. We follow Rob’s safety instructions, eventually leave the harbor and reach open water. We step out of the cabin and into the wind, deep green-blue water splashing left and right off the boat. Claire serves us a second breakfast, steaming hot black coffee and a homemade blue berry buckle. If you purchase their mug with the coffee, you get a life time of free refills. We do. You never know.
Rob is a learned seaman and teaches us about the sea life out here. Especially his insights on the orcas, also known as killer whales, are fascinating. Did you know there were transient and resident orcas, that they spoke different languages with various dialects, that the resident ones lived of fish only, while the transient would hunt water mammals, including other whales? That transient orcas would always be hunting in a group of four to eight and that they could take down a blue whale? That they would do so by suffocating the whale as they would clog its blowhole, thereby keeping it from exhaling and eventually drowning it? That they would also hunt white sharks, knowing how to flip them over on their back and thereby putting them to sleep? That they are still very unexplored but possibly the most intelligent water mammals, capable of non-verbal communication?
I could go on. But then it happens. We see them. About 200 to 300 feet away: humpback whales. Possibly three or four. 50 feet long, majestically diving up, exhaling with 300 miles an hour, every breath, an exhausting task to them accompanied with a long “Pfouuuaaahhh” sound (while we humans breath in and out several ten thousand times without even thinking about it). Rob explains that just like humans, there are humpback mothers that take care of their babies very closely and others that give them more room, and that the men sing beautiful songs for the women. And they show us all their magic, swimming on the side, splashing with their side fins on the water, as if they were waving at us.
And time stands still for a moment. The magnitude of the creation just shuts me up and makes me realize the relativity of my own existence, a blink in time. It is a spiritual moment that continues to dwell in us long after we have stepped off the boat and said good bye to Captain Rob and Claire and the humpbacks.