Friday, August 26, 2011

Eyeball-to-Eyeball with a Sperm Whale pt II

By Hardy Jones

Thoughts floated through my mind, lingering for instants but, finding no certainties on which to perpetuate themselves, drifting back to wherever thoughts come from. "What does the vast computing system housed in the six-foot square skull of this animal make of me? Am I a joke? Does it find me as funny as I might a monkey scratching its ass? Surely it doesn't see me as edible? Does it have any clue that I can think too?"

But the one thought that never left my mind was, "how do I keep this animal with me?" For by now I was in love with this whale. I could not disengage my eyes from its one huge eye. I watched its every move. "Every move you make, every breath you take. . . . .". Even in open ocean swimming with a sperm whale my mind is a jukebox. It breathed every thirty seconds. I huffed and strained for enough air to keep my legs pumping. For five minutes we swam eyeball-to-eyeball, the whale using only the barest motion of its tail to gain forward momentum. I was surely in an altered state but it was not dreamlike. It was intense reality.

The great eye moved slightly forward in its socket, the left edge of the tail fluke was raised and my whale began a right turn, prelude to breaking off contact. You cannot pursue whales. If you try you will find yourself looking at a disappearing tail, some sloughed off epidermis and more than likely passing through a reddish brown cloud. So I resisted that impulse and turned left, mirroring the whale's retreat. When I looked over my shoulder the whale had turned back toward me.

Knowing I had to try to bring it to the camera I headed back towards the boat. Roc, with his huge housing, could not have moved far from it. I resented the responsibility of having to help the French crew get video of this encounter. I wanted my whale to myself to see where the encounter would go if we were left on our own.

As we approached the boat I could see Roc hanging at the surface, the glassy dome of his camera pointing at us. He was getting his video but I was going to lose my whale. Perhaps unwilling to get close to another of these strange creatures or to approach the boat, perhaps obeying a call from its mate far below, the sperm whale breathed twice, accelerated, arched forward and began to swim almost straight down. I could see it pass through the slanting golden shafts penetrating the blue of the sea. A bubble from its blowhole, a bubble from its anus and it was gone.

I don't remember swimming back to the boat but once aboard I jettisoned my dive gear and clenched my fist in triumph. Trying to share some of the experience with the French video crew I said "Incroyable! Ne c'est pas?" The director raised his shoulders and twisted his face performing that characteristic Gallic shrug and lit a cigarette.

To me to be uninspired by a sperm whale is a tragedy. Soon I will write about the joke I played on the French film crew. I love France and the French (by and large) but occasionally their arrogance needs to be brought down a peg.

For more stories of interspecies contacts in many oceans of the world read The Voice of the Dolphins by Hardy Jones, available in print and Kindle at

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