I’ve been informed that it’s World Whale Week. . . .Wow, wonderful! As much respect as I have for these amazing and unfortunately endangered creatures, it’s my own self-preservation that comes to mind when thinking about whales.
While filming Travels to the Edge, I was trying to guess at where a whale would surface next for a shot. I had the camera to my eye, prefocused, poised and ready to capture what I hoped would be a magnificent breach 100 yards off the bow – only to have the whale come up right next to the boat, spouting mere feel from me!
It scared me so much I screamed, and the footage from the film crew was rendered unusable as what came out of my mouth next was not suitable for the PBS audience.
Over the years I’ve had many more great memories while working with whales, and looking forward to making more!
Blue whale populations were decimated by whaling, exterminating an estimated 97% of their numbers until a moratorium was placed on whaling in 1986. When whalers first descended on their summer feeding grounds around South Georgia Island off Antarctica they would see “whales by the thousands” in the area. An estimated 176,000 whales were taken over 60 years.
In 2018 a lone pair of Blue Whales was spotted in the area, adding to just one or two sightings over the last 40-50 years. And then in 2020 – on their most recent survey – 55 Blue Whales were counted feeding in the area! An amazing swell in the numbers in such a short time.
My bag arrived in time for one day’s shoot. We had just five days over the water and four of them were just too windy and the whales were very shy. There was one, though, who would stay on the ocean bottom where we barely could see him and then every 20 minutes he would come up for air. Our trick was to swim like hell to intersect him when he reached the surface without being clobbered. I got three chances, and during one, I guessed right and he came up just in front of me. I could have grabbed his tail and gone for a ride. Now I am off for the Duba Plains in Botswana; hopefully, my bags will make it with me! Stay tuned!
As many of you know by now, my trip to Tonga marks the first time in decades of rugged and remote travel that my bags have not made it with me. Thwarted by airlines, mechanical troubles, and weather, I have one camera, no underwater gear, the clothes on my back and boatloads of frustration. Thank you to Darren Jew who has been stellar in allowing me to use his equipment so the trip wouldn’t be a complete and total washout.
My friends and I had a great time wandering around various parts of the Salish Sea in search of orca whales. While we did finally spot 8 transient whales on our adventure it takes either really good light or unusual behaviors such as spy hopping and breaching the surface to make the photo and alas we had neither that day. To really photograph orcas takes a bit of luck (which I often have) and a lot of time (which I never have). I have been fortunate enough to see them in Antarctica, Argentina, New Zealand, Norway, and Alaska and I was hoping to have some shots of them in my own back yard for my next book project but it wasn’t to be this time around.