We were on a quest to see Orcas.
Our farm is exactly three miles from a popular whale-watching site here on San Juan Island, and in between unpacking or working on fencing or scooping horse poop we would hop in the truck and take a quick trip down the road to try to see a whale. Not an entire pod. We would have been happy with just one.
But each and every time we went, we saw…nothing, other than a wide expanse of ocean where I envisioned the whales frolicking deep beneath the surface, far from our prying eyes. I was determined that my friend B would see one before she had to to return to land-locked Colorado.
Late one afternoon, B and I decided to try one more time. Matt, busy with the fencing, demurred, so we hopped into the truck and set off.
We hadn’t even made it all the way to the park when B suddenly gasped. “I think I just saw a fin!” she said. I pulled the truck into a scenic pullover parking spot, we leapt out and peered, and sure enough, there in the water was not one, or two, but five or six Orca whales!
Seeing the whale there in its natural habitat literally took my breath away. I thought I’d get a kick out of seeing the Orcas; I didn’t realize how profound the experience would be. I’ve long been a critic of keeping marine mammals in captivity, ever since the first investigative story I ever did was about an Orca named Tillicum that had killed his trainer and then been bought by Sea World to be “Shamu.”
Watching a whale float listlessly around a stagnant and small man-made pool is nothing less than tragic. Seeing an Orca arc gracefully through the ocean gives you a profound sense of contentment, that the world is as it should be and there’s hope we humans haven’t screwed things up completely. Yet.
After a few minutes, B and I jumped back into the truck and screeched right up to the edge of the pasture, waving our arms at Matt and saying, Hurry! He dropped his gloves and ran with us back to the truck. We peeled out to try to see the whales one more time.
Would they still be there?
They were. We all sat on a nearby rock and watched in awe while the orcas glided here and there just under the water, then surfaced, then dove, so close that we could hear the powerful whooshing sound they made as they loudly blew air.
We were so wrapped up watching the orcas that none of us thought to grab a picture until it was nearly too late. B managed to snap a quick shot as one of the last orcas headed out.
It doesn’t matter. I know I will see them again, and the images of seeing them for the first time where they belong will forever be imprinted in my mind.