Lance's Journal

Azores -- 26 July

[Glossary ]

As if on cue, spotted-dolphin greet us again, with the boat setting course from Lajes out to sea. These dolphin are amazing creatures, so sleek, so effortless in their movement, sometimes leaping fullbody out of the water above the waves. Thirty-five feet up in the mast I look out over the expanse of ocean hoping to distinguish the vapor of a sperm whale's blow from the numerous white caps gaining in size with each passing moment. The platform upon which I am perched, although secure, rocks back and forth violently.

In the distance I see two blows, one larger than the other and appearing close together. But as we approach I see that there are not two but actually 3 sperm whales. A larger whale, which appears to be a mature 30 foot female, a juvenile about two-thirds the adult's size, and a tiny whale, not more than 8 feet in length. The two larger whales blow several times as they move along side by side, then fluke in synchrony. The calf remains on the surface for a moment, then submerges without lifting its tail. A few minutes later the youngster resurfaces near the boat. Curious, it pokes a rounded, glistening nose clear out of the water while circling us. Then, apparently satisfied, the little whale submerges quickly, fading from sight.

Other vistors today include a pair of sperm whales which come within 10 feet of our craft, turning upside down as they pass, exposing bright white markings along the jaw and belly. Did this belly-toward-the-surface positioning enhance the whales ability to view the boat? One of the pair, a small juvenile about 15 feet in length, decides to make a second pass, cruising directly in front of the bow. From my perspective in the mast it appears as if the whale actually touches the boat. Richard, Kirsten and Gonzo shout with amazement as they lean over the bow, their faces only inches from the whale. Rolling on its side, the animal sneeks a quick peek at the human observers before diving down and away into the glare of the setting sun.

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