Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kayaking with Killer Whales: Saying Yes to Orcas & Awe

From August 15-19, I was kayaking around the San Juan Islands. This blog is adapted from the third and fourth journal entry from that trip. I've pasted a link to a video about the expedition company I travelled with during this time. I didn't bother to take photos of the orcas because in the moment, I didn't want to mess with a camera.

"We owe it to our children to be better stewards of the environment. The alternative? - a world without whales. It's too terrible to imagine."

"He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it."
Hermann Melville.


Today, we rose early on Jones Island to eat breakfast because we had to get out boats in the water by 8 AM to meet the best currents, but that was delayed by a major, close in orca sighting. It was amazing. There were at least two dozen moving through the San Juan Channel (a rare appearance in that pathway, according to our guide). We observed them doing all sorts of things in the hour or so we watched them. I was NOT distracted by memories of the past while watching the whales. I had no frame of reference for this awesome sight. They are enormous and beautiful. I was in awe and humbled. My depression was immediately floored by the gift of the moment.

When I was in my 20s, I had some dreams about orcas--one in which I swam with a whale and the other in which one rose up out of the sea and walked along the shoreline with me. For many years, through many moves, I kept a mobile with three orcas hanging from it above my bed. This real life sighting was like the fruition of that dream.


Today, we left Reid Harbor on Stuart Island around 8:15 AM. Halfway to our next campsite, after paddling through Mosquito Pass, Evan saw all these boats lined up out on the strait, like paparazzi, which alerted us the orcas were coming, so he invited us to take a detour with the hope we'd see them. We paddled out a ways, and then started spotting the whales in the distance, so we moved out boats together, holding on each to each, so we made a giant raft, and floated there and waited and watched. Eventually, it got to the point that every direction we looked in, there were orcas--we were surrounded! Some were a mere 25 yards away! Some looked to be turned to swim directly under us. This is one of those situations were I'm short on words because of the intensity of the present moment.

Finally, after the orcas left our sight completely, we paddled back, with renewed energy, to our last campsite on San Juan Island. Evelyn, my paddling partner, and I were making jokes and laughing so hard about the stupidest things. I was laughing so hard sometimes, I couldn't paddle.

As I write this, everyone is reading their books while lying in the grass and resting. . .

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