I would imagine that most people who engage in fishing for the love of water and nature feel a moment of awe when reeling their catch in, taking in the beauty and perfection of each fish they catch. How could you not. My daughter and I were off on a whale watching adventure recently out on the Bay of Fundy. It was a glorious day. Dolphins frolicked in our wake almost the entire journey and humpback whales surfaced to say hello. One calf, born this year but still more than a whopping twenty feet long, practiced her work-out routine right beside the boat. She was curious and playful, bringing her nose out of the water to receive our applause and oohs and ahhs. She laid on her back, slapping the surface of the water with her massive pectoral fin. Her mother would have taught her this to help remove parasites that attach themselves to whales. She was delightful, and we felt something profound at being in her presence. She was interacting with us, communicating.
We think of ourselves as being at the top of the order of living beings on this planet, be they plant or animal. We cut down trees at will, often clear-cutting enormous areas, our vision focused only on what we can take from the environment for our own use. We spend significant amounts annually on chemicals to keep what we consider weeds out of our lawns. Our focus in what we call progress seems to have such a limited view, with only our needs in the decision-making. I would suggest anyone stricken with the disorder of feeling superior to all other forms of life should be obligated to spend time on the ocean or in a forest or on a lake and if they truly opened their hearts and minds, they would be cured. The magic of life that exists around us is a cure for just about anything.
The humpback whales’ migration patterns will take them 25,000 kms each year. They were hunted to the edge of extinction, an estimated 90 per cent of them killed off until 1966 when we woke up and realized things had to change. Now we watch whales instead of killing them, but our shipping lanes and noise pollution are still very harmful. The same humpback whales return each year to the Bay of Fundy for feeding grounds from June to October. They bring their new calves with them, and those calves will follow the same migration pattern as their mothers.
The colouring on the tail of each whale is in a unique pattern, much like a fingerprint. The whales are catalogued by photos of their tail colouring and tracked by whale watching crews each year. The crew on our boat could point to some of the whales that surfaced and call them by name. The whale watching boats are respectful and allow significant space between each boat so as not to crowd the whales. The humpback is the friendliest of the whales and seems quite happy to entertain us.
I’ve been out on Fundy six times to visit the whales and I am never disappointed. The experience makes me quiet yet giddy, humbled by their magnificence. I feel like a child at the rail of the boat, waiting and hoping to see one of these amazing creatures. It fills me with gratitude and a heightened urge to do better by all that lives around me. Gregory Colbert is a Canadian filmmaker and an “apprentice to nature”. He tells us “whales do not sing because they have an answer, they sing because they have a song.” We need to listen.