Seattle: Ogling the Orcas

At the Port of Edmonds, the morning was crisp and bright. A sunny day, almost too greedily perfect to even wish for on a whale watching expedition in Seattle, dawned as I waited for the boarding to begin. Looking out over the water, I wondered what we might see. It was still and silent there – no wind or waves – and the water was like glass, affording a clear view to the shallow bottom. A dogfish lazily meandered along the bottom, and a crab shuffled sideways before crouching into a tiny crevice.

I stood there staring, transfixed, when suddenly what I thought was an enormous fish entered my view. It was so quiet there, the sight of its large head, then an even larger body speckled with faint spots, felt surreal. This was no fish, though; it was a sea otter – beautifully flying along the bottom of that shallow portion of sea, its webbed paws flush with its smooth body, swiftly and easily passing along through greenish beams of underwater light. It seemed an auspicious sign that hopefully indicated larger wildlife to come.

The Whale Watch was only a half-day excursion, which ended up being just the right amount of time (it takes about an hour and a half to get to the pod-frequented waters). After boarding, our group headed north to the San Juan Islands, where the orcas are known to swim. On the way, we encountered a humpback whale, which the naturalist on board explained had almost been extinct, and only recently was making a comeback. The sighting, then, was a happy one.

We also saw a sea lion sunning itself on a bright green buoy, oblivious or unbothered by the birds that were also vying for a resting perch.

Then, sooner than expected, and without warning, an orca was suddenly trailing the boat. The dorsal fin careened up and out of the water, then a bit of sleek black body. Its immensity was impressive, its power apparent.

In an instant, I was in once again in awe of everything that this earth afforded: the breadth of beauty and life and the startlingly simple fact of our existence. These beautiful blackfish ~ noble, majestic, powerful, and enormous ~ shared the planet with us, and trusted that we wouldn’t destroy it. It was humbling to see such magnificence – humbling and thrilling. I didn’t get many good photos, both for the fact that they surfaced without warning, and because I was much too intent on experiencing the moment than capturing it.

Grand, other-worldly, and gorgeous, those whales take your breath away. They remind you of your place, and theirs, and how unwieldy humans have become. But I don’t want to mar the re-telling of this tale with political grandstanding and soapbox diatribes. I want only to remember the whales, and the ocean, and the wind, and keep it all cradled in my soul.

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