It was arguably the toughest stretch of whale watching I have ever worked in my career. Technically it is still ongoing but for the sake of this article let’s just talk about the summer season. In the whale watching business here in the US it is Memorial Day through Labor Day that is the crunch time.
May was really difficult, with a very low number of whales sighting. A quartet of Humpbacks and a handful of other animals made June very exciting but July and August fell quite flat from usual. I blame the warmer waters we had locally which kept the krill elsewhere but I would be lying if I said that was the only possible reason. There are so many factors we may never know.
The upsides to this summer were nice however. My first documented Sei Whale sighting, a plethora of Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin sightings (with PATCHES too!), a rare pod of Southern California Risso’s, and some of the best dolphin calf photography I have ever experienced made it so that I will still have plenty of fond memories for the season.
I can’t stress enough though that when sightings are tough, it is just as tough on the captains and crew of a fleet as it is for passengers who might be disappointed when nature doesn’t live up to their expectations. Along with happy passengers being important for a successful season the people who work on the boats genuinely want to see these ocean spectacles just as much, if not MORE, than the folks who book passage. I admit that there are things that wore on me, even grated me to the point where I had moments where I did not want to be at sea any more.
“Why don’t they just call it dolphin watching?”
“When is the best time?”
“Do you ever see whales?”
It is so frustrating to hear this because when times are good I will still hear:
"Why didn't the whale breach?"
"I wanted to see (different species) instead."
"One time in (Alaska/Hawaii/Monterey/South Africa/Australia etc...) we saw a billion whales."
Seeing things in nature is a gift and my frustration makes it difficult for me to understand that not everyone realizes that it can take a lifetime to see some of the things with our own eyes that we see on TV.
Marine life isn’t there to perform on command like in marine parks, and those marine parks are approaching their twilight in the United States as more people begin to understand the difficulties captive cetaceans face.
As more vacationers poured in and more people unaware of good boat etiquette came through I found myself with another frustration, the frustration of waking up and wondering WHY I was doing what I do? There is nothing worse than self doubt of this kind for me right now. I feel like this career of mine is at a critical juncture where I can start making a greater difference, but standing up for personal principles and virtue requires a self confidence born from knowing that the path one walks is right for them.
I know I still possess that spark somewhere. I know because I heard someone say the other day that it doesn’t matter to them anymore if certain animals suffer extinction and I had an extreme feeling of revulsion wash over me.
From that realization that deep down I still cared, a little bit of emotional oxygen fed that little spark. I don’t consider myself terribly courageous or insightful to admit these deep rooted flaws in my conviction or weaknesses in my psyche. But I’ll be damned if anyone ever accuses me of not caring. I’ll use the upcoming downtime to rest and recharge and resume my role in the battle to protect the planet with improved vigor and a renewed sense of purpose.
Hopefully the next post of this blog is a little more cheerful.