Saturday, 4 July 2009

Superpod

No its not the name of some new pop band, although give it time... did you see this film of a superpod of dolphins off the coast of Wales on the BBC website? This bought back memories of the superpod of dolphins I saw whale watching off Kaikoura back in 2004 - its scary its been so long since I last travelled properly and I have very very itchy feet but a combination of study and freelancing (lack of cashflow) has stopped me and unless more work comes travelling to any of the places I want to see is a very far horizon.

I finally got to meet the whales and dolphins on my fourth attempt on that trip - I'd tried off Auckland and in the Bay of Islands but no one was home, and on my first visit to Kaikoura the weather was abysmal so the boats stayed in port and the helicopter was grounded, not that I was going anywhere near a helicopter in that weather. The second time I went through Kaikoura the weather was perfect and this is an extract from my diary:

We sailed a little way from shore, where the continental shelf drops away very steeply and the warm tropical waters meet the cooler waters from the Antarctic (I think). Then the captain started the hunt, I guess, as in the Bay of Islands, the earlier boat and the other boats all keep in touch so that they all know what is going on, so the captain knew that there were whales around. He kept dropping the sonar over the side of the boat to listen for their calls.

He did have good news, there was a sperm whale about and he sounded as if he was going to surface – so we sailed around a bit and there he was (they are all males in this area). Amazing. It sounds so new agey, but it did feel very spiritual as the whole experience was so peaceful despite everyone else on the boat and the helicopters overhead. We could see him and hear him spouting water regularly from his blow hole. It was very humbling experience, he was so unconcerned that we were watching him, he just got on with the business of re-oxygenating his body, just so calm, magnificent, wonderful.

Took lots of photos, of course, they told us when we was ready to dive and hopefully I got one of his tail. (I did).




Then we were off again. ... We found another whale again, once again it was just so calm and so peaceful and gentle (although not if you are a squid apparently). Whales are like icebergs, the majority of the whale stays underwater. Amazing that it was so calm as there was another boat and the helicopter there – a third boat had already had several encounters so they backed off – the NZ authorities insist that only three craft (including helicopters) can get close to the whales in the water (you can just see one of the other boats here).




We sailed around some more and the lookout found some dusky dolphins. Amazing, but so different to the whales. There were some 50 – 100 so they were hard to see as they splashed around and dove and looped. Where the whales don't seem to care or notice that we are around, the dolphins seemed genuinely delighted to see us – they swam over to us and started playing around and under us – such a feeling of joy and fun (these photos give just a very small idea of the size and closeness of the pod).






Then back to the whale hunting and the first whale we encountered had resurfaced, apparently they come up for air every couple of hours or so. They turned off the engines and stopped the commentary and we had some quiet time with him (despite the other boat and the helicopter). Such peace and a feeling of timelessness, agelessness even though he is a relatively young male (around Kaikoura they are under 40, when they get that old they are finally large enough to mate and so leave for warmer waters where they get to meet girls!) just amazing.

3 comments:

BarbaraS said...

Meeting dolphins is very special. I've seen Funghi the dolphin in Dingle, from a boat, but there's no comparison to what you're talking about here. I also love the colours you've captured. The sea looks gorgeous.

riverwillow said...

The sea is gorgeous there - as is the light, its just very different and, for the first time in my life, I took some absolutely gorgeous photos.

If I ever manage to get my act together to go whale and dolphin watching off the West Cork coast want to come?

Semi Dweller said...

Can't comment on dolphins, but my sole sighting of whales, fleetingly over breakfast in Oregon reinforced the concepts of how magnificent aquatic mammals are.

Beasts like these reassure our thoughts on our own existence.