I like to sleep with the window open, especially when at sea or at a wilderness cabin. I don’t want to miss a thing – and although I understand that sleep is a necessary function, I reluctantly drift off with the hopeful anticipation that something might wake me through the night.
We were anchored in an estuary surrounded by steep granite walls and sedge grass that wound its way along the river to a place we could only imagine. It was somewhere close to 4:30AM when I awoke to the sound of what I thought was hail piercing the calm waters that surrounded the Island Solitude. I peeked out the porthole to see what looked like hail in the darkness, illuminated only briefly by slivers of moonlight.
And then there it was – the unmistakable sound of a quick gasp for air by a very busy humpback whale. I shimmied out of the top berth of Crew quarters and suddenly (not sure if my feet touched the floor) found myself on deck surrounded by my pajama-clad travel mates.
It was not hailing after all. We think there were three humpbacks circling and diving around us sending terrified herring jumping out of the water for their lives. It was like we were in the middle of herring popcorn, the sound as bizarre as the sight. The whales had collectively corralled a massive school of fish against the wall of the estuary and swam from one side to the other scooping up their midnight snacks by the thousands. It was too dark to photograph, we were too sleepy to fully comprehend what we were experiencing – it was completely surreal.
As quickly as they appeared, they retreated, leaving us to our quiet and calm anchorage. There were few words shared as we all made our way back to our cabins to find slumber where we left it. With my porthole open I drifted off, again with the anticipation of our next moment with nature in its purest form.