Tag: nature

Saying Goodbye to Whales

Saying Goodbye to Whales

SimoneLipscomb (207)April 3rd

We left our mooring on the Silver Bank early this morning and it feels as if my heart is being torn from my chest. I sit on the flying bridge listening to Whales Alive through my headphones. A rainbow arcs across the sky. So many emotions, so much love and gratitude course through me. The building music mixed with whale song and poetry narrated by Leonard Nimoy matches the graceful and powerful movements of the whales in the distance.

As our ship moves ever-closer to land I see lob tailing by a baby and mother whale. How precious to see life expressed in these gigantic gentle beings so beautifully.

SimoneLipscomb (67)Now an adult begins fin slapping with the brilliant white of the fifteen foot long pectoral fins acting as beacons of light against the cloudy sky. It was as if two angel wings reached for the heavens and each thunderous slap on the Ocean’s surface a call…but for the whale I am unsure of the meaning. For me each fin slap is an explosion of energy and a reminder, “See this! Hear me! Pay attention! Goodbye! Thanks for visiting! Come again!”

SimoneLipscomb (98)Off in the distance a whale is breaching repeatedly…over and over and over…joy exploding from the depths and I am sobbing now. The music of Paul Winter builds as the whale song crescendos and I find myself lost in a world of music of humans and whales. Such harmony, such power.

Flying fish glide silver against the indigo, liquid light of the Ocean. They go bouncing from wave to wave, sailing through troughs of the moving sea. Such beauty.

SimoneLipscomb (41)This experience of being with my humpback sisters and brothers has taken me to a place within myself that is deep and silent, still. After a week with whales I still find myself at a loss for words for the depths of emotions they have brought forth from my depths. I don’t know how I will integrate this week with my life. Of this I’m sure, I am changed. Transformed.

The sky at the horizon is light blue and grows in intensity of blue as my gaze wanders upwards. Small, white clouds dot the sky–puffy delights of cottony, flat-based moisture-laden beings.

I hear a shout from the bow. DOLPHINS!

I carefully hurry down the two flights of stairs to find several of my two-legged friends from the past week cheering as 10 spotted dolphins ride our bow wake. We stand and gaze over the side and watch the acrobatics of these sleek and lovely creatures as they leap, surf and frolic. This lifts us all as each of us has expressed feelings of sadness at our magical time together with whales and each other comes to an end.

SimoneLipscomb (157)It feels as if my life suddenly makes sense but I have no idea where it goes from here. I simply know that something is happening that was unlocked that came from surrender to childhood dreams. Perhaps as children we remember the path we dreamed with angels, while floating in that amniotic sea.

The song of the humpback called me many years ago and finally I heard it in real time, in person. It is my intention to listen deeper to what they are singing. Not with a scientific mind but with the eyes of my heart.

SimoneLipscomb (146)

——–

Even though words frustrated me as I wrote each day of my experiences with humpback whales, I hope in some way I was able to convey to those interested readers the sacredness of this experience. It is my desire to return often as a friend and support to the whales that call the Silver Bank home…and to think of them daily with respect and love.

Special thanks to Tom Conlin whose dedication to the humpbacks of the Silver Banks helps them remain safe and protected in their calving and breeding waters. And to his crew of Aquatic Adventures.… Lorenzo, Denise, Brandt and Lisa thank you!! And to the Crew of the Turks & Caicos Explorer II…JF, Mark, Jane, Pipa, and Mia thank you!!

Whale Diary One

Whale Diary Two

Whale Diary Three

Whale Diary Four

Whale Diary Five

Whale Diary Six 

 

 

Rainbow Thursday–Part One

Rainbow Thursday–Part One

SimoneLipscomb (80)I awakened around 5am and climbed to the upper deck of the boat to await the dawn. A dark rain cloud was hovering in the eastern sky and a wall of rain soon began to move across the Ocean toward the boat. I moved down to the first level which is covered but open on the sides. The loud shuuuu sound of the rain on the sea was beautiful music.

Past the small boats that were tied behind the mothership I saw a fluke slap the surface…then another…and another! And then a baby fluke appeared beside the mother whale and joined in the tail-slapping fun. It was obvious the juvenile was still learning as the control of the large fluke was a bit wobbly.

SimoneLipscomb (74)A couple was standing just inside the salon of the boat so I ran to get them. The whales were pretty close to us. I commented, “There’s got to be a rainbow with the sunrise and the clouds.” Suddenly a brilliant rainbow appeared in the sky, arched over the mother and calf and the calf breached. We looked at each other in disbelief.

The whales continued their lob tailing, fin slapping and the juvenile played in the rainbow as the pastel colors kissed the surface of the sea. I was thankful there were others to witness this phenomena as who would believe this? One of the crew members, who was summoned to the otherworldly event by this invitation: “There’s a baby whale playing in a rainbow,” later said “Who says that?” Exactly. Who says...there’s a baby whale playing in a rainbow?

SimoneLipscomb (81)After people wandered away I stepped down on the dive platform so I could see the full arch of the rainbow. The mother and baby humpbacks were still there, but quiet now, coming up to breathe and then resting. Their white, misty exhalations a stark contrast to the dawn sky.

As I stood level with the Ocean, saltwater washing over my feet, I felt the immensity of this vision. Not just the vision of this incredible experience but the vision that guided me here, to this place…to this life. The support of those unseen forces that guide my life wrapped around me powerfully. I could quite literally feel their touch. And from unseen realms I heard clearly: “Your work is supported, your life is guided. This is the promise we give…you will always have our support.”

SimoneLipscomb (73)Remnants of the rainbow linger as I sit, writing about this experience. The mother whale and her baby just surfaced and exhaled. The mist from their breath lifted upward into the soft, pastel colors of promise. The Crystal River trip in January comes to mind where I was making a voice memo about following my dreams and the intense rainbow appeared…and the cross-street, Follow That Dream Parkway. Meeting the marine biologist who operates a humpback whale research station in Tonga who planted the idea and reminded me of my life dream to be with whales. This all seems so surreal. Rainbows and whales and life dreams.

SimoneLipscomb (83)Mom and baby whale are still there, literally at the end of the rainbow. And I know with certainty that I am guided, supported and loved, beyond anything I can imagine. I am so incredibly grateful.

Note: I didn’t have my camera on deck when the whales were playing in the rainbow. And I didn’t want to risk missing a moment of the experience to run downstairs to get it. These images are from later in the day with a mother and calf…I think it was the same one as this behavior continued for a long time. Regardless…the magic of it still moves me. And the rest of the day was amazing…stay tuned.

Whale Diary One

Whale Diary Two

Whale Diary Three

Whale Diary Four 

Wednesday at Sea

Wednesday at Sea

SimoneLipscombApril Fool’s Day

The sun rose from a calming sea. Purple-blue rain clouds hung low in the sky as light begin to be birthed from behind the low cloud bank in the east. Before the ball of fire emerged from its hiding place it began to illuminate the western sky and the puffy stacks of cumulus clouds took on a golden hue that grew in intensity until a cathedral of light surrounded us. Those few, early-morning risers who seek the peace and hope of the dawn received an Anointing of Light. And then….the rainbow. Each of us, in our own way, was transformed as our hearts and minds accepted, with gratitude, the gift of the day.

No camera to document it. Some moments are best captured with the heart.

First Half of the Day

SimoneLipscomb (4)Mother and Calf–in water watching them sleep. As I floated on the surface in the blue water, I was overcome with the sweetest peace. Was unsure of how I would react with such intimate closeness with creatures I have longed for my entire life. Would I be over-excited? Instead a deep, profound peace filled me. There were no thoughts in my mind. I was calm, present and one with the whales.

Mother whale slept and baby tucked under her chin. Then baby would come up for a breath, go back down and rest under mama. Precious. Sacred.

The first time in I didn’t take my big camera housing but rather my little GoPro. And that’s all I needed. I wanted no distractions so I simply watched…observed…allowed myself the experience.

Eighty miles offshore. Twenty feet from a 45 foot humpback mother whale and her calf. How can ANYthing compare with this?

As I wrote Sunday after the experience with the rowdy group, I have never felt so comfortable in my skin. I still feel the same way. Only more so.

SimoneLipscomb (154)The Ocean does this to me but the humpbacks make me feel at home in my body. Finally.

I reflect at the strangeness…that I wasn’t overcome with crazy, wild emotions but rather taken deeper, deeper…deeper still into my core, to the heart of who I am. This is their gift to me.

After our time with the mother and calf, we were slowly motoring and looking for blows, fin slaps, or dark, shiny backs when we came upon another mother and calf and yet another mother and calf that converged. Each had her escort and a challenger. Seven whales weaving and moving very fast, answering the call of love.

Afternoon

SimoneLipscomb (143)I set the intention today of capturing a photograph of a breaching whale. Shazam! Not only did I get one but several are in focus. The manual focus effort is working but making me sweat. As I was reviewing my images in the room I went completely wild. If anyone was walking in the hallway they probably wondered if I had officially lost my mind. Well, sure. That’s a given. Finally!

SimoneLipscomb (156)I called him or her Grasshopper. The juvenile breached for probably 20 minutes without stopping. Scientists can study and surmise but if they simply observe with open minds there is no other conclusion as to why this juvenile was breaching: IT WAS FUN! The joy Grasshopper felt was contagious as everyone on our small boat was filled with light and laughter. Transformation…with whales leading the way.

SimoneLipscomb (127)So grateful! So very grateful!

SimoneLipscomb (125)So profoundly grateful!

SimoneLipscomb (137)Water splashes against the hull and brings me back to the present moment. I was lulled into a slight trance as I unwind from a day filled with whales…blissful whale peace…fathomless peace. Deeper into myself I go, tapping channels of profound peace and love that run deep to the Heart of the Planet.

———–

Whale Notes: Scientists have tried to figure out the mysteries of humpback whales for decades and are probably no closer to finding a scientific explanation for their behaviors than they were in the 1970’s. Some scientists tend to look only at animal behaviors of lesser beings and so their work is inclusive. The mistake science makes is that it places humans at the top of everything. Because humankind has the ability to destroy anything and everything we must be more intelligent. Right? Or we have opposable thumbs. That’s we’re so smart. We’re also the only species that destroys the environment necessary for our survival. Whales have brain cells wired for emotion so, as I mentioned about their singing, why wouldn’t they frolic, leap for joy and experience bliss? My dream is to be funded to study humpback whales without the restrictions of science and to begin with a neutral baseline where no assumptions of intelligence pollute the information gathered. Perhaps we will find our kinship with them and all life when we stop elevating our own species above all others.

A female humpback whale and her calf commonly have a male with them called an escort. If another male approaches he is seen as the challenger. A rowdy group is a mixture of this combination and can include more than one challenger. 

Photography Notes: Manually focusing on a breaching whale is almost impossible. I checked the location and direction of the whale, thought about his likely emergent path and focused ahead of him on the Ocean’s surface.Using continual shoot with my shutter, I blasted several shots off with each press of the shutter button. Not all were in focus but several were sharp. I was bruised at the end of the day from leaning on the rail and bumping into it with the bouncing of the boat. Holding the heavy camera and lens up for long periods of time was also tiring…thank goodness for my workouts! This was undoubtedly the most challenging photography I have ever done.

Whale Diary Day One

Whale Diary Day Two

Whale Diary Day Three

 

First Contact

First Contact

28 March 2015

First afternoon with humpback whales.

SimoneLipscomb (176)(Silence)

WOW!

I’m sitting on the bow of the mothership listening to the sound of waves gently kissing the sides of the metal hull. Eighty miles offshore and nearly flat calm seas.

(Silence).

WOW!

SimoneLipscomb (230)I’m not sure there are words to describe the amazing experience. I’ll have to invent them.

This morning, while having breakfast, we saw humpbacks from a distance and were amazed. Truly. When three massive adults are rowdy within ten yards of the tender boat…well…just OH! MY! GOD! Thank you!!

SimoneLipscomb (182)The action was so quick…so very quick…I hardly had time to take it in. But at one point I just stopped and emotions arose. Trying to balance on a moving boat while manually focusing a heavy lens with moving whales is challenging. Very challenging. The auto-focus is too slow so I had to anticipate where they would surface, focus and wait.

SimoneLipscomb (179)Hearing the blow was amazing and one was so close I could hear the trumpet sound he was making with his exhalation. It’s a high-low sound like a raspy voice, a grunt almost. He was working hard, swimming fast to keep up with the female, calf and her escort. Just being close enough to hear that sound was amazing. It feels permanently tattooed on my soul.

Another wonderful moment was being so close we could see the white of their fins directly under us and see bubble streams as they surfaced. WOW!

SimoneLipscomb (164)
Rowdy Group…notice the whale has a mouth-full of water. They do this supposedly to make themselves look bigger to the other male.

There were several mother whales with juveniles but none were interested in us visiting them in the water. But it was okay. I want time to integrate this afternoon’s experiences.

(Silence).

WOW!

At one point on the small boat, when we were so close to the whales, I thought I had never felt so comfortable in my skin. (Sigh).

SimoneLipscomb (168)As I sit trying to gather my thoughts about my first close encounter with humpbacks I look into the soft, blue sky filled with wispy, white clouds. I see humpbacks in every cloud formation. One cloud looks like a spinal column, like vertebra of a massive sky whale. I wonder if I breathed too much fishy whale breath and am hallucinating.

What could be better than snuggling in the bow of the big boat, gazing upwards and finding cetacean cloud forms gazing down at me? Whale angels flying around the sky with long, flowing, graceful pectoral fins, stretching to the edges of the Universe.

SimoneLipscomb (34)The water was so clear today and so calm. I feel such gratitude just to be close to the whales, to see them in the distance as they blow or breach or lob tail or fin slap. What is this strange magic here on the Silver Bank? I feel inebriated with wild, white-breathed whale blows.

I sense myself changing rapidly as I become one with the Ocean and Her singers, the voice of the Sea. The only thing to do is surrender to it, let go and be in the salt-water flow.

——

Whale Notes: A Rowdy Group is a group of whales that includes a female and possibly a calf, her escort and at least one challenger (male). They move very fast and get very physical with one another. The explosive power in these massive animals is truly mind-blowing. Humpback males are 45 to 50 feet in length. Females are 50 to 55 feet in length but size varies just as it does in humans. Adults weigh between 25 and 40 TONS! Calves are born about 15 feet in length and weigh around a ton.

Photography Notes: Surface shots are with a Nikon D300, a Nikon 70-200mm lens with a 2x converter. Some of these images are at 600mm. Very few are cropped…the whales were so close in some shots I couldn’t frame their entire fluke (tail) in the image. The auto-focus function was far too slow so I manually focused all surface shots. This was undoubtedly the most difficult and challenging shooting I’ve ever done. Trying to keep the camera and lens dry, balance in a moving boat while manually focusing on fast-moving whales was tough. I was delighted that many of my shots were actually in focus…and quite surprised. I would focus on where I guessed the whale would surface and had my shutter on continuous fire. I set the lowest aperture (5.6 with the converter) and let the camera choose the shutter speed which worked very, very well.

Entry One from the Whale Diary can be found at this link.

 

Whale Dreams

Whale Dreams

SimoneLipscomb (203)The shiny, black, massive body rolls past in the choppy, blue sea. My mind and heart are filled with humpback whale. Something pulls me back to waking consciousness and I realize it’s only a dream. Monday 5.15am and even though I still feel the gentle rocking of the sea, I am home in my own room, in my bed. The images dissolve as I realize where I am.

SimoneLipscomb (178)But where is home? I stood on the gunnel of the small boat as it slowly made its way to a blow of a whale and realized I had never felt so at home in my body, so at peace in my skin. I understood that home is not a place or geographic location but is a feeling, a sensation, that goes with us wherever we are. When we feel that sense of ‘home’ we are doing the right thing, on the right path, in the right place.

SimoneLipscomb (186)For as long as I can remember I have longed for humpbacks. And now my heart and mind feel as if their presence activated something deep within that I cannot yet put into words. I trust that as I continue to surrender to this beautiful life path, all will be made known.

I kept a detailed travel journal to remember and reflect and to share my experiences. Over the next few days I will post entries from the journey and invite readers to follow along and experience some of the magic of the Silver Bank where humpback whales return home to give birth and mate.

26 March 2015

SimoneLipscomb (16)Flying over ocean I see visions of the Cosmos being the home of whales and dolphins and the Ocean as a reflection of that wide, massive space. The deep indigo color touches my heart, my mind like nothing else. It activates within me a true sense of home. Shades of turquoise, indigo flecked with puffy white clouds reach out and touch me. I can feel the liquid fingers of the Ocean tapping my Heart.

SimoneLipscomb (15)Blue fades to blue. Liquid, salty bliss fills me, surrounds me and I overflow with joy and know not where I end and the Ocean begins. Perhaps that is the key. There is no end. No beginning. Only one. Unity. Bliss.

SimoneLipscomb (13)From the heat of the airport and confusion over transport to the hotel, I find myself in a hotel with grounds so beautiful it feels as if I have stepped into the Garden of Eden. Orchids gracefully arch from trees. Large, green, tropical foliage shelters walkways from the lower latitude sun.

SimoneLipscomb (5)The beautiful and comfortable room provides a place to rest and recover from the long travel day. Everywhere I turn there is beauty here. The light cocoa-colored sand is soft and welcoming. Tropical birds chirp and squawk as I attune to the sweet energy of Hispaniola.

SimoneLipscomb (9)Tomorrow afternoon we gather at the boat. By 11pm we will be underway to the Silver Bank, a reef found 80 miles offshore. This is where the whales come to shelter from high seas and to have their beautiful calves and to mate. This is where we will moor for a week and where life-changing encounters will occur.