Friday 30 May 2008

Thar she blows!

Whales, weed, phosphorescence. nukes, krill, trench, terns, acclimatisation..quick, dash below checklist for this blog.

Too hairy to sit down here while on watch - more on this later. Down in the big trough between two wavest I looked up and saw a dark column silhouetted against the sky out on the port bow about 300 metres away - odd - it disappeared, then another - yesss! whale spouts - huge plumes of vapour and spray, perhaps 20 ft high and cylindrical - then they were white against the sea, from the top of a wave - perhaps 4 or 5 animals, going our way, only the briefest glimpse of one - long back, small fin, very Finwhale. And then - and then there was a black shape beside the boat, perhaps 10 metres away - I now think it might have been the tip of a pectoral fin - and a HUGE black shape surfaced - no spout, just massive presence, no apparent velocity - and then dived and turned towards us as it did - enormous swirl of water, longer than the boat. I had a Moby Dick shiver, but it did not reappear. I could not see any detail - just black.

McQ's weed is kelp - enormously long fronds of the stuff with stems like tree trunks all longer then the boat and highly dangerous if it gets into the prop - hence not being down here blogging. We hit one - big bump and I could see a long sinuous line in the phosphorescence astern - took me a few seconds to work it out and reach for the throttle and it was gone. Lucky,

Phosphorescence - astonishing, amazing, I've never seen it like this. Berri's path through the water is a silver green arrow with brilliant surges from the bow and a long undulating shaft stretching astern as far as you can see. It is bright enough to light up the sails and, believe it or not, the terns milling around the masthead as well. It's they who are making the chirrups I mentioned earlier as the try to land on the masthead. I photographed one in daylight. I went and sat in the pulpit looking aft and just bathed in the raw beauty of it all - like the most subtle firework display, but cold and fierce as well. It seemed, too, as if we were going through a shoal of tiny fish or perhaps krill in terabytes. I wonder if it's all a left over from the nuclear tests at Amchitka!

We're now over the Aleutian Trench - up to 7500 metes deep - it would take me half an hour to run that these days. I wonder how long it would take for - say - a coke bottle to reach the bottom. And I'm deliberately trying to sit out there slightly underdressed to get used to the cold - and the damp. I like McQ's blurky. Needs cold and wet somehow as well.