Sunday, August 26, 2012

Whale Hunting

Before I tell the tale our week-long hunt for humpback whales, I would like to give thanks to the millions of tiny fish who brought an incredible number of birds and mammals to our part of the California coast to feed.  You rocked our world.

Our story begins last Sunday night when I saw several posts on facebook about whales feeding in Avila Bay.  I went to bed feeling disappointed because we spend so many weekends at the beach and had missed a perfect day to see a whale.  The next morning as I picked up Oliver from school, my sister showed me a video she took of the whales that morning.  We dropped all of our plans and headed straight for the beach.

Whale Hunting Day One:

I threw the kids in the car and sped out to the beach.  My heart was beating rapidly and my hands were shaking a little.  Yes, the prospect of seeing a wild animal makes me quite crazy.  Oliver and I were laughing and singing about whales.  Life was going to be so good at the pier.  We pulled up to the pier and jumped out of the car.  A woman told Oliver, "There is a mommy and baby whale out there right now."  I almost died of happiness.  We ran out to the end of the pier.  I asked a woman if she had seen a whale.  She replied, "There are whales here?"  My excitement began to wane.  Pearl and I smiled at seals and Oliver spent time with fishermen.

Watching pelicans dive over and over was interesting, but we wanted whales...badly.  We waited for hours before we finally threw in the towel.

That night I photographed two spiders killing a fly and told myself, "This is just as cool as watching humpback whales, only on a smaller scale."

Whale Hunting Day Two:

It's a really good thing I have a husband who loves animals almost as much as I do.  Glenn, Pearl and I headed out the next morning after dropping Oliver off at school.  The seal lions were putting on a great show, but no whale could be found in the bay.  Can you see the disappointment in my eyes?  I was putting on a brave face for Pearl (Although Pearl thought she was seeing whales the whole time.  She saw at least twenty).  

We drove away from the pier certain the whales were gone for good.  Glenn noticed a pod of dolphins on the drive home and we stopped to watch a spectacular show.  I finally felt satisfied.  The dolphin show was more than good enough.

Whale Hunting Day Three:

My husband is a pretty great guy.  He still wanted to see some whales, so he agreed to pick me up after work for another go at it.  Day three was our lucky day, because I spotted a whale swimming away from the pier just as we arrived.  

We drove to the closest bait ball and waited.  Glenn had the camera when the whale rocketed out of the water to grab a mouth-full of fish.  Everyone watching cheered.  It was glorious.  

Whale Hunting Day Four:

The kids and Glenn had a few hours to kill until I got off work.  They decided to drive to Avila one last time to look for sea life.  Glenn called me when I got off work.  He said, "We are tired and hungry, but I think you should drive out here right now."  Glenn, Oliver and Pearl had seen a whale at the end of the pier and were watching another pod of dolphins play.  

Glenn scraped together some Cheerios from the floor of the car for the kids and we dressed them in whatever old sweaters we could find.  Our car isn't dirty because we are lazy, we do it for survival purposes.   The four of us headed out to the pier once more.  I looked up and saw a whale swimming toward the pier.  "RUN!"  

We were hoping we would be faster than the whale.  We were almost to a bait ball when Glenn said, "You should have your camera ready."  Just then a huge mouth surged out of the water not more than 50 feet from us.  I missed the shot.  This is what my picture could have looked like.  It is a photo taken by my friend, Todd Gaily, at the same pier.

I'm happy I got to see it without looking through a lens.  I have the best mental picture.  All of us were on a serious nature high for the rest of the evening.  Oliver said it was the best day of his whole life.