Headed Down


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The morning was still, with only the whispers of the humpback whales breaking the quietness. A few scattered pods broke the water’s surface across Alaska’s Inner Passage. Whales drifted north, then back to the south, in long lazy loops. With the faintest of all “whooshes” a whale’s tail appeared then it, too, was headed down back into the depths. A short while later it would break the surface with far louder “whoosh,” breaking the silence. A jet of water erupts as it surfaces, and then the entire process starts over again.

This cycle continued for most of the morning, with the whales coming and going, and one by one they headed down, then up, again and again. It was hypnotic, mesmerizing, and fascinating, and an endless rhythm, just as it has always been here. This part of the Inner Passage doesn’t see many humans or much traffic, just a few ships a day steaming through, so the whales and I had it all to ourselves. The whales, at least, seemed content to have it this way.

It’s difficult to describe all the feeling and emotions I had this morning. Peace and calmness, certainly, were a large part, but it was far more than that, too. The whales drifted closer to me, then farther away. Perhaps they were aware of me, and I would certainly like to think so. What did they think as they left the world of humans and headed down into their depth? Or was I nothing more than a blip to them?

A loud “ker-splash” echoed across the water as a humpback whale leaped from the surface, following by a far louder crash as it careened back into the ocean. Another humpback, not to be outdone, followed suit, followed by an even louder crash. Meanwhile, the other whales continued to surface and then headed down into deep waters. Let’s hope this cycle continues forever!

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