On the trail of whales
“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular of my interest ashore, I decided to sail about a little and see the watery part of the world...”
I could keep going on with quoting Herman Melville but let’s switch to reality now. It was actually January 2016. I was still trying to get used to Volda but somehow I just couldn’t find my place, so I decided it was time to board a plane and fly to Tromsø. Even before coming to Norway I always wanted to visit Tromsø because I’ve heard it was an interesting city and especially a great place for whale watching - and seeing real whales was one of my top “things to do before I die”.
After a few really snowy days in Tromsø, the long awaited morning to go on the much desired whale safari was finally there. It was a foggy, cold day and the wind was blowing quite hard. I knew I was going to freeze, but I was just looking forward to the trip so much that I soon forgot about the weather. That is, until we were actually in the middle of the sea.
While the catamaran was speeding forward I literally felt as the life was being sucked out of me. I also had to keep a firm hold of my clothes, while trying my best not to be blown away by the wind into the sea. After getting a bit more used to this crazy weather, I was finally able to focus on the scenery around me.
We were sailing through a fjord and the mountains, combined with the half-stormy sky, were just breathtaking. It was long until we came across any whale, but the trip was by no means boring. Every time I tried to take out my camera, though, I felt like my hands were going to instantly freeze and break into small pieces. Of course, you could always get inside, where they had free tea and coffee, but what’s the point of going on a whale safari if you spend your time inside?
I couldn’t help but start thinking of Moby Dick. I imagined I was part of the book, on a philosophical journey trying to find myself, having to spend months on a ship in even harsher weather conditions, and looking for the White Whale (I wouldn’t try to hunt it though). As my wild thoughts roamed, a huge wave made the catamaran swing quite hard and shook me out of my thoughts.
Soon after, we finally came across the first group of humpback whales. They were really shy, so after diving once or twice they ran away. We tried following them but we obviously lost them. And as the sea is their home, they of course had the higher ground. However, not long after this we met a larger group and they actually interacted with us for a while before going their way.
It is so interesting to notice their behaviour and the way they try sometimes to communicate with us. These whales were sort of curious about us, so they came to surface a few times, but maintaining all the time a sort of indifferent attitude. Later we came across some more small groups, and although they were not really as energetic as I imagined they would be, it is definitely an amazing experience to see whales breaching.
Living most of our lives in the urban area, surrounded by other people, pollution, huge buildings, traffic, politics, etc., we human beings lead an opposite life to that of whales. Whales have the vast seas and oceans at their disposal. I felt the inferiority and limitation of human beings against the unstoppable forces of nature; they could move freely in their sea, while I had to grab firmly on the catamaran’s bar. The metaphorical description Melville used in Moby Dick now made even more sense to me.
Watching whales in their natural habitat and observing their behaviour made me feel free, unconstrained by all the social limits and clearly eager to discover more of the mysteries of the sea, and universe.