Wednesday, February 3, 2010

'Tis the season

No, not that season. It's winter, and for another few weeks the camellias will continue to bloom and it will continue to be whale watching season in northern Florida. I mentioned it briefly in a previous blog entry, but it's worthy of a further note, and more detail.

About this time last year, Rodney was working at one of the county's beach access points in the northeast part of our county when he saw what he thought was a car or something equally unlikely rising out of the Atlantic. And then he realized the sound he could hear was air: she was close enough that people on the beach could hear the sound of her blow hole. He thought she might have been a hundred yards off the beach, and she might have been 30 feet long, maybe more. And this is a man who's worked for a living, a man who knows how to fix things and put things together, one of the smartest men I've ever known, a man whose estimates are trustworthy. 30 feet. Imagine that.

Because we spend so much time at our beloved Guana Tolomato Reserve, a state park, and because it has signs posted like the one I've pictured for you, he remembered that there was a number he ought to call, so he did. To his surprise, he got a call later that night. "We've found your whale," the woman on the phone said, "and her name is Arpeggio. She's traveling with a calf, and this is the fourth year we've seen her..." So imagine THAT: out of an entire population consisting of less than 400 individual animals, the most endangered whale species in the world, Rodney had seen a veteran mother, and a new baby. When the whale calving season ended, and all the North Atlantic Right Whales had moved back up to their regular range far to our north, Rodney got a certificate in the mail. He had been one of only a hundred or so people to see and report a whale that year.

The world turned round and round and a year later my friend Louise was at the beach, less than 10 miles from Rodney's spot last year, and called her husband to say she could see 4 whales. She had her binoculars, but they were too far off the beach for her to take pictures of them, and in any case I think she wanted to watch them more than take pictures. It happens that her husband and I are work colleagues, and he mentioned she'd called to say what she'd seen. "Well, have her call," I said, and pulled out the very picture I've given you here to hand over the number. There were a couple of rough patches, work and communication being what they are, but the long and short of it is that Louise did call, and did get her observations to the right people. A short while later, driving toward town, she was able to see the plane circling over the ocean, looking for the whales she'd spotted. And that evening, she got a call: the plane had spotted not only the 4 whales Louise had seen, but 5 more: a total of 9 whales. And when you think about that, those whales represent nearly 5% of the whole living population of these marvelous creatures. It is nearly indescribable, so miraculous does it seem. I have lived on this coast the most part of my life now, and have never seen one, for they could glide by in the night or be under the water when you happen to look, or have wandered far enough from the breaking surf that you could miss them, easily. But they are out there, my loves. They are.


  1. I, too, have walked the shores of the Atlantic thousands of times and never seen a whale and I think if I did, my heart would burst with the joy of it. Thanks for reminding us that they ARE there.

  2. Dear, dear Ms. Moon,
    It really is amazing, isn't it? I have to tell you that I laughed out loud reading about Mr. Moon's and your gender-segregated lives, for I have a very similar feeling about boy things, into which category I place all tools, air compressors, car-and-truck things, and ALL lawn equipment. The sole exception is the lawn mower, which is a kind of drug for me or something. All the rest of it is a land into which I venture not. But sooner or later, they all come to the kitchen.
    Love, love.


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