“Dawn broke soft and gray with a captivating hint of the Hawaiian bouquet—plumeria, ginger flower, nana-honua and orchids—swaying in my head like a slow, sensual hula. White frothy curls marked the ocean’s edge and all along the beach, tiny crabs bid adieu to the moonlight and disappeared into sand silky as powdered sugar.
Coincidentally, my fascination with the sea began in the same Pacific waters when I was only four years old. It was during a summer visit with my father, who worked for one year as a doctor on Oahu. I still remember the first time I saw the ocean, the awesome enormity, the roiling waves of turquoise and white, the strum of some innate internal chord.
It was in those early years, watching television shows starring Jacques Cousteau from my Colorado living room that I learned about gigantic air-breathing mammals who sang heart-aching melodies from the depths of the deep blue; humpback whales, Megaptera novaeanglia, stretching up to 50 feet in length and famous for their long, fluid pectoral flippers and characteristic knobby-marked rostrums.
… from the moment I closed the back cover on Roger Payne’s poetic science chronicle, Among Whales, I longed to hear humpback music through a hydrophone. I imagined it dangling beneath me into the mystical abyss like a fishing line that would hook the songs and carry their vibrational notes to my headset above. The pace of the song is very grand and extended and appears to me to be set to the slow rhythm of the ocean swells—the rhythm of the sea, Payne wrote.
I also yearned to see humpbacks in their element. Not on the surface; I had already enjoyed many whale-watching excursions where these goliath souls sidled up to the boat, spyhopping to peek into our strange floating tub. No, I wanted to see them on their terms, under the water, where they were free to dance, unfettered, through the liquefied space.
And today, at long last, I would.
As our boat bumped across ever-changing ripples that stretched as an aqueous desert between West Maui, Lanai and Molokai, I stabilized myself on the forward deck, leaning heavily against the windshield, and scanned the horizon as I do when piloting an airplane, looking for dark specks in a seemingly endless field of blue.”
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Hear whale song (courtesy of whalesong.net).
Read the full articles about my underwater encounters with Humpbacks in Hawaii, Underwater Ballet: Naturalist Escapes Desert for Humpback Whale Research http://www.brookebessesen.com/pdfs/take%205/humpback%20whale%20series_underwater%20ballet.pdf