Meaningful Memories by Mat Janeway ~ Bluewater Mate


The cloudless blue sky reflected off the calm pacific around us, and the gentle breeze was matched by an easy, almost lazy swell.   The Island Roamer was steaming west, out to the continental shelf, and we couldn’t have asked for fairer weather. Suddenly, a yell from the wheelhouse:
"Albatross!"

And there it was, a Black Footed Albatross, Phoebastria nigripes, sedately bobbing on the surface of the water. With a spread of its wings, and three long beats, it was airborne.  The jaw dropping, 6 foot wingspan carried it just above the surface, gliding easily over the waves. The massive bird gently turned to cross our bow, and presented us a view of its entire body; the perfect photo opportunity.

Hardly 5 minutes had passed, when a second yell from the wheel house was heard, louder this time.
"Sperm whale!"

The Long black body, hanging almost motionless in the water, had just surfaced 200 yards from us and was drifting slowly forward, across our path. The blow hole, the dorsal fin, the long deep back furrows, we could see it all.  And it was big. For a full minute, we watched in awe, as this mysterious, graceful creature hyperventilated before diving below the surface once again. We were all left with that funny feeling, a mix of disbelief, wonder, and serendipity.

It is moments like these that make each day, week and season with Bluewater Adventures memorable.  This year was no exception.
My season as mate for Bluewater Adventures began in late May, in the remote and wild archipelago of islands called Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Island). These islands are widely known for their rich cultural history and abundant wildlife, but that’s a bit of an understatement.  They offer an experience unlike any other, presenting your senses with unique sights, sounds, smells, and textures. Some of these experiences can happen again and again, and yet others are over before you know it.

One thing you can almost always count on in the spring are humpback whales. Returning from their winter breeding grounds in Hawaii and Mexico, they arrive with only one thing in mind; food. Sometimes it may be just be a few whales within sight, but this season saw scores of hungry humpbacks, all frothing the water in a feeding frenzy. Lunging, lobbing, breaching, and breathing, all day and all night. 

And then there were the Velella velella, the strange and beautiful Hydrozoan that sails the pacific, who washed ashore in their millions, littering the beaches with a deep indigo blanket. But
these curious little creatures didn’t arrive alone, they brought all sorts of exotic flotsam and jetsam with them, all carried in the same ocean currents to be washed onto the pristine shorelines.

And what shorelines! Home to a squishy, oozy, and slippery assortment of unusual forms from the intertidal zone, they are absolutely abound with life. Scarlet sea stars, carmine cucumbers, aqua algae and crimson crustaceans. Enough to fill your wildest dreams—and memory cards.
And yet, season after season, it’s always the people that surprise most. The new, young, and passionate generation of Haida, practicing age old traditions; the kind and generous passengers, with unwavering enthusiasm; and of course, the crew, with their lively company and quiet competence.

 

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