|Humpacks off of Provincetown, May, 2012|
After a lovely weekend in Hyannis, back home to the same old grind. The weekend was well-needed, after the chaos of Anthony's accident, and our poor Big Mac passing away. The two days in Cape Cod would be a moment to catch my breath, see the beauty of the Atlantic, and just generally clear my mind. We had to leave at around 6:30 am if we wanted to get to Yarmouth before 3 pm, and still stop for lunch, giving an allowance for random traffic, etc. I laid down around 11 pm, and began to do a little pre-bed reading, when Anthony burst in to the room, feeling terribly sick from the medication the physicians prescribed for pain. Apparently, it didn't agree with him, and he was very ill, and frightened as to what was happening to him. After an hour or so of sitting with him and helping him, and trying to sort out whether he would need a medical intervention or not, he finally seemed to be settled and feeling a bit better, at around 1:30 am. And, me? After that agitation at bedtime, I feel asleep at around 3 am, for a good night's rest of about 3 hours. Yay.
The first day was mostly driving, but I love driving and a good road trip. It is extremely cathartic for me, so the 7 plus hours to get there were no trouble at all. It was an easy ride, no traffic, and GPS basically gets you door-to-door. After a slight mishap at check-in, (wrong room), it was off to the beach for a nice long walk and some good, clean, briny sea air to clear the mind and lungs. Then, a long dip in the heated indoor pool and jacuzzi, and a delicious surf and turf dinner at the swanky Yarmouth House restaurant. All very nice...until time for sleep. Then, old man Insomnia comes a-knocking...and then, the midnight phone call from Noelle telling me she is sick...then, more insomnia. Sigh. Night number two, no sleep.
Next morning, groggy but optimistic, we set out for Provincetown to go wandering, looking for inspiration and some quick sketches for bigger artworks, to hit up all of the lighthouses on the Outer Cape, and later after lunch, a whale watching expedition. I had never seen a whale except in the aquarium, so this was very exciting for me. We were told that there were whales in the area, so it might be a success. The day was bright, sunny, and warm, and really lifted my spirits. So, off we went, on the Dolphin IX, out into the calm, blue Atlantic to look for our beautiful friends of the deep.
Pulling out of port, the sun was on the other side of the ship, and the wind whipped frigidly around everyone. Initially, the excitement of the journey had everyone on deck to see the Cape from sea, but after about ten minutes of bitingly cold wind, most were driven back into the cabin to warm up. I persisted on deck (armed with three layers of sweatshirts including a windbreaker, hat, sunglasses, and my camera) along with a few other braver souls, and we were immediately rewarded with the appearance of a Minke whale. The Asian man beside me hollered out the alert, and all hands were immediately on deck clamoring with excitement and craning to see the now disappeared whale...some were disappointed at missing it, but all on board were now on high alert, and optimistic to see some more whales.
We pressed on, full throttle, out to sea, and as the minutes and then an hour ticked by, we began to feel a little hesitant, thinking maybe that might be the only whale we get to see today, ironically nearly in port. Just then, miles in the distance, a woman with binoculars spots a spray far on the horizon line. It is so far away, it looks like a hologram or a moving picture from old...I see it with my naked eyes, but the distance makes it surreal. We are encountering a whale pod. Everywhere, the spouts begin to surface, coming closer and closer. We see the majestic animals leaping from the water in the distance. The disbelief at what I am seeing is acute. Can there possibly be that many of them?
The boat engines slow to a crawl, and for the next several of hours, we delight in a pod of over 30 humpback whales that stay with us, coming up close to peer at us with deep, black, glossy eyes. They come so close, we get damp with their spray. Mothers and their calves in pairs rise and submerge seamlessly and and gracefully through the water, the babies cavorting and frolicking near the water's surface. Within several yards of the ship, the whales break the surface, mouths agape, for minutes at a time, peering at us, while the seagulls land on their massive heads, resting their wings for the minute or two the whales are above water. Other small groups of 4 to 5 humpbacks appear to be engaged in a synchronized dance of rising and diving beneath the surface as they hunt and feed on small fish. It was truly breathtaking.
As for me, my wonder and excitement at this natural spectacle brought me back to a state of childhood. In many years I had not felt such deep feelings of happiness and amazement when I saw this beautiful and awe inspiring group of creatures. I was moved to tears by them, their gentle beauty, and how lovely and mysterious they are, and for the privilege of being close to them for that moment in time.
Even our captain was sad when we had to leave them after several hours. He said that this activity was unusual, and this was a rare trip in terms of sighting so many, so rare, he couldn't remember the last time he had been in the midst of such a large pod, and that they had stayed as they did. We left them, and not vice versa. He stated with a laugh that at this time in May, we would be lucky to spot a few, and usually, the weather is gray and water choppy, so if you do get to spot some, it comes at a price of physical discomfort for a lot of people on board. Many times in the early season, people go back to port cold, sea-sick, and disappointed. But not today.
That beautiful experience made my entire trip to the Cape. It was the moment of a lifetime, to be with all of those majestic creatures, in their midst. I was so happy, I was on cloud 9 for the entire evening. And, old man Insomnia couldn't touch me that night. I slept like a baby.