A true story that inspired me to create a written image.
|Far across the water, out in the midst of the Bering Sea, far from any decent sized piece of land, and even more than a day’s steam from the nearest island, Ana sat on hands and knees at the highest point of the yellow and blue banded Pacific Glacier: the wheel house, home to the captain’s command center. Spray whooshed along the thick, steel hull as the ship rocked back and forth in its hunt for schools of Pollock. Swaying along with the motion, Ana’s hands paced along the floor, corralling whatever filth had gathered that day and leaving a trail of cleansed perfection. Her path made one lap around the glass enclosed office, and spun closer towards the science-fiction looking circular console with stacked monitors, sonar displays, radios, buttons and dials which were all within an arms reach of the captain’s moving chair, where Olaf sat, eyes well beyond the glass. Through the encroaching dark of evening he was watching a soft mist as it grew larger and more detailed, until one mist become two, then three and four separate sprays.
“Ana, get those binoculars, the whales are back.” With a slight effort he pushed against the chair and lifted his aging frame from the perch he had spent most of the last two decades in. Eyes on the whales, not wanting to lose their position but also not needing to see the maps and tools and desk of papers in front of him to know where to step, he moved to the glass wall and set his hands on the sill just as Ana moved next to him.
“There,” he said as his finger nudged her looking glasses towards the target. In a moment she focused on them, a small pod of fin whales, way in the distance, swimming with a slow but powerful pace, growing ever nearer to their craft. Her blood pumped a little quicker and a breath hung with a quiver just below her throat as she watched their massive, graceful bodies gently lift from with water, then plunge back beneath the surface, visible for only one last fleeting instant then gone, until finally, almost in rhythm with the ships swaying, one would crest into the air, and with a deep effort blow a stream of water firing into the air.
The boat on course, 105 crewmember below running the processing, storing tons of frozen fish into a hanger sized freezer, nets dragging in a perfect line held taught by locomotive-like engines, the captain and cleaning girl stood together, transfixed by a traveling pod of whales.
Closer they came, until the evening light become grey, striking the water at such an angle that when the giants would flow back down to their deep they could still be seen for a gasp, then a breath and a half, and finally for an entire moment. Aware of the ships presence they stayed below longer than expected, the rhythm broken, the magic of man in his floating creation meeting an ancient species adapted to their environment seemingly over.
Almost by mistake, one body could be seen climbing through the Bering Sea, enormous grey suddenly twice the size of before as she rose literally yards from the ship, speeding towards the bow! A bubble rose with her head as she lifted it from the freezing water, every line, ripple and sinew bright and clear, her momentum and the ship's carrying them both to the same spot, two lines crossing at one exact moment in time, her seventy-two feet rising meters from a collision with the solid craft. Blood drained from the witness’s bodies, mouths trapped in near gasps as the sudden realization of what could transpire took hold. Without thought or sound they both rushed out to the deck, as if somehow their presence in the cold night would somehow warn the creature, save her from the impending doom and allow her to join the family dancing somewhere beneath her.
The chilling race was at its climax, the majestic body hanging on that line between sea and sky, dangerously close to annihilation. Ana and Olaf stood breathless, unaware of each other, their focus on the gap closing between mammal and steel. In a moment that seemed to defy time, the beast arched her long back to it’s ultimate peak, uncaring of the approaching danger and opened her massive blowhole and expelled high into the air, up to the height of her desperate watchers, a victorious explosion of seawater breath. As any true temptress of the sea she allowed them one long, full look at her sleek body, before breaking from that frozen fragment of time and lunged forward, allowing the two on deck one final gaze as her engine of locomotion, that split tail, flipped high into the air, waved a sultry goodbye, and plunged the performer down into the now dark water, where she refused to make an encore.
For the first time in recent memory Ana blinked, suddenly remembering gasps and cries of surprise she had made moments ago. With slight embarrassment she turned to the old captain, expecting to see a glimmer of laughter in his eye over her outburst. Instead she found the same shocked expression that painted her face, his hand unknowingly grasping his heavily beating heart. “In my entire life at sea, that’s the closest I’ve ever seen one, for a moment I didn’t think we’d make it.”
Still speechless but aware of the magic they had just witnessed, the two returned to the safety of the glass wheelhouse, without any difference between either of them, any of those three.