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 



SimoneLipscomb (166)Monday the 29th

Our morning out on the tender was a bumpy ride. We saw whales but none near us. I felt hypnotized by the water, wind and constant up and down bouncing of the small boat.

Behaviors seen this morning: fin slapping with whale floating on back bringing both pectoral fins up and down repeatedly. Since they are fifteen feet in length this is quite amazing and creates a huge splash and sound. Also saw lob tailing that was done many, many times. Oh, and breaching. Even though none of these were close it was amazing.

FIn slapping...the whale is floating on her back while raising the 15 foot pectoral fins from the water and slapping them repeatedly
FIn slapping…the whale is floating on her back while raising the 15 foot pectoral fins from the water and slapping them repeatedly

All afternoon the wind picked up in intensity. Twenty-five to thirty knot winds meant no afternoon on the small boats as the transfer from big boat to little ones was simply too dangerous. We sat grounded on the mothership watching whales in the distance as they continued the behaviors from the morning. One group of whales stayed about a thousand feet to our stern for hours teasing us with fin slaps, breaches, lob tailing and all we could do was sit, clap and whistle. Some on board were known to hoot and holler. Even though we weren’t as close as yesterday, it’s still awesome being in the presence of humpback whales.

SimoneLipscomb (89)A mother and calf were part of this small group of three whales. All afternoon the big whale splashed and made quite a statement, but what is she saying? In my imagination she gave birth and was letting all the whales know of her newborn. I shall call her Stormy. Maybe a children’s book will give birth to this idea…did I just do a whale pun?

Now pale rays of sunlight shine through heavy, gray clouds and touch the blue-gray ocean at the horizon. Their brilliance creates a living, silver horizon. To the left, dark, slate-colored rain clouds. To the right, clear skies. Between me and the horizon lie humpback whales, living in the salty sea.

A circle opens overhead in the thick cloud layer and one ray of light pierces the darkness to illuminate the sky. I feel it illuminate me. What is this life-long call to be with humpback whales? Where will it lead me?


SimoneLipscomb (118)I can’t remember the day of the week or the date. No electronic distractions…no social media, no email. I realize how much my life revolves around a piece of plastic with metal and glass bits. I am sinking into whale time which seems to function in another dimension.

In-water experience with a baby today. From only twenty feet away the graceful pectoral fins slowly floated past. Humpback whales are like angels…angels of the deep.

My discovery for the day? A juvenile humpback whale is HUGE! I mean HUGE! Eighty miles offshore, in this vast ocean, I was only 20 feet from a baby humpback whale. Just ocean and whale. And bliss. There was bliss.

SimoneLipscomb (3)
Our guide observing a mother and calf

Then….my reality was shifted.

We had the short encounter with the mother and juvenile and were back in the boat when the captain heard a radio call about a group of folks from another boat listening to a singer. He got out his hydrophone and recorded it. We took turns listening through headphones.

As soon as I put on the headphones and the vibrations of whale song reached me, I was changed. Whoooop, whooop, whoooop…..then deep bass notes trembling through the water. Whoooop, whooooop, whooooop….higher, eyrie treble notes. I felt my face light up and my entire being shift. And one-by-one, we listened. There was no concealing what each person felt as the faces shifted to expressions of pure light and love.

The reverberations of deepest bass mixed with high squeals and whooop, whooop, whooops made my heart open in an explosion of joy. I sat on the bench seat and wept with the purest expression of love I have ever experienced.

After the recording was done we quietly slipped into the water and even though we were far from the whale, several of us heard the song as we dove down beneath the surface. Humpbacks truly are the voice of the Ocean. They are angels of the deep.


Juvenile nose emerging from the water
Juvenile nose emerging from the water

Whale notes: Even though humpback whale songs have been studied for decades now, scientists are no closer to understanding why they sing. Many theories exist but none have ever been proven. It is thought that the males are singers and they sing to attract females for mating but females don’t approach a singing male. Most of the time males sing alone but it is common for a male to sing with a mother and juvenile. Sometimes other males gather around a singer. The song of the humpback whale is the same between all whales in a group and changes each year. After careful study of their song through graphs and notation of the sound it is found they rhyme. Also, whales from all over the planet that supposedly never have contact with one another, sing the same song or songs that are very similar. Not long ago a scientist discovered that humpback whales have special brain cells that are also in human brains…the cells that are associated with emotion. My theory is they sing simply because they love to sing and it is their way of expressing emotion…and they are telling the story of their species, of the Ocean. 

Whale Diary Day One

Whale Diary Day Two


First Contact

First Contact

28 March 2015

First afternoon with humpback whales.

SimoneLipscomb (176)(Silence)


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.



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.



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.


Dare to Dream

Dare to Dream

SimoneLipscomb (14)On the eve of a trip to visit with humpback whales I reflect. The bags are packed, the gear is loaded in my car for a 3.30am departure for the airport. Now, nothing to do but wait until it is nighttime for rest. On this dark, wet day the softness, gentleness of the rain has surrounded me with calm as I have finished the final tasks.

In fact, the entire week has been a week of inner calm, a direct opposite of last week when I was traveling and found out a space had opened up on a whale trip. Last week…chaos. This week…calm. Sweet, beautiful calm.

When I first heard whale song it deeply touched me. Roger Payne, back in 1967, first recorded whales (with Scott McVay). It was probably in the 1970’s that I heard his recording which was used to help promote an end commercial whaling in most of the world. Whale song travels across entire oceans. Perhaps their song was a call to action to my young environmentalist heart and to many others.

A couple years ago Bryant Austin published a book called Beautiful Whale. His project was the first life-size photographic documentation of whales. He basically sold everything he had, built a computer to handle the size of the files and proceeded to create a most amazing project. His work deeply touched me.

SimoneLipscombAround that same time I decided to paint a mural in my office and was inspired to paint a cosmic scene with stars and Earth. Floating in the Cosmos was humpback whales.

SimoneLipscomb (3)My daughter and son-in-law made a cool project for me that had the word ‘dream’ on it. I placed it under the cosmic whale mural and see it every day when I work.

SimoneLipscomb (6)Last summer my artist cousin told me of a program at an art museum in Pensacola. Roger Payne was speaking about a project Ocean Alliance had been doing with sperm whales in the Gulf of Mexico over the past several years. I heard him speak, met the crew and toured their research vessel.

FullSizeRenderIn January I had a very wild experience on the way to Crystal River. I was listening to a John O’Donohue recording on Beauty and had paused it to speak into my voice recorder to take notes about my life dreams. At that moment, I glanced over my left shoulder and a huge, double rainbow was in the sky. I pulled up to a traffic signal and the name of the cross street was, Follow That Dream Parkway. I met a marine biologist and his wife from Australia and he encouraged me to visit Tonga and their humpback research station later in the year.

The entire series of events was put into motion by a very significant push to leave a day early for Crystal River. I listened, packed my stuff, and arrived a day early. The next day on the manatee trip I met Rich and learned of his work in marine education. After sharing a boat trip with Rich, Deb and Indiah and friendly manatees in Homosassa and having a very nice dinner with them, it felt like a series of doors begin to open within me.

I wasn’t sure about Tonga…it’s a very long trip for a solo traveler but other options were possible off the Silver Bank near the Dominican Republic. I remembered the captain of a live aboard dive boat’s encouragement a couple years ago to go with their crew on a whale trip and long story short I was chosen from a waiting list to go…just 10 days ago.

As I reflect back on this long love for humpback whales, I’ve been pulling on the thread a bit. How did this trip come about? What is it about? Where is this open door taking me?

SimoneLipscomb (1)The best way I can explain it is simply…surrender.

The words of John O’Donohue ignited a spark that was lit long ago and finally I have the courage to follow the dream. I’m not fearful of whales or the ocean. What’s held me back is fear of surrender. Surrender to my dreams. If I completely surrender and follow the Path that is opening before me, what will be the outcome?

What if I dare to live my dream? What if I surrender to that teenage heart that was so moved by whale song? What if I give myself the necessary tools to create the vision that is within…that perhaps I was born with?

SimoneLipscomb (2)I don’t know the outcome. I don’t know if whales will show up for those of us making the pilgrimage. I suppose the true pathway to our dreams comes with each small step we make in the direction of them.

On New Year’s Eve I sensed a huge change coming in 2015. The message I received during my meditation that night was:  I can no longer hide from the world. It is time to fully engage and remove anything covering the light I wish to bring to the world.

SimoneLipscomb (8)This afternoon, as I reflect back through my life, I see where whales have always been deep within my consciousness. The other night I had a dream: I arrived at the boat where we’ll be spending the week. The crew was giving me a tour. In the center of the boat was a moon pool but instead of going into the ocean it was the Cosmos…the starry heavens. I looked within it and dolphins and whales breached. And then I woke up and scribbled notes so I would remember.

I want to remember…I want to awaken to the wisdom calling me.

What is your dream?



Moods of the Gulf

Moods of the Gulf

Gulf of Mexico iPhone photograph feb 22, 2015
Gulf of Mexico iPhone photograph feb 22, 2015

Warm morning temperatures called me to the Gulf yesterday and within a few minutes of checking the ambient temperature–63 degrees–my feet were splashing through chilly water. I didn’t take my camera so I could simply lose myself in the wild beauty but sometimes an iPhone gets the idea across when it’s just too beautiful not to take a photograph.

Sunset Gulf Shores, Alabama 2014 with iPhone
Sunset Gulf Shores, Alabama 2014 with iPhone

I grew up on the Alabama Gulf Coast and loved it but moved away at various times of my life. The latest time living away from the beach was a span of almost 20 years. While I loved the mountains of North Carolina, I am most happy here, where my blood resonates with the salt of the sea…or maybe Bonaire which is my home away from home. I’ve been back home almost three years…is that POSSIBLE? It’s a great place to live but don’t tell anybody!

Sunset January 2015 at 30-A
Sunset January 2015 at 30-A

The Gulf of Mexico is a wild body of water that can appear soft and gentle as well as wild in a crazed frenzy. Whatever the mood, I love this beautiful body of water that is part of the One Ocean and am happy that I can have my toes in wet sand with just a short drive.

Tropical Storm Isaac
Tropical Storm Isaac

The mountains are still dear to me and are a refuge for me, but the open horizon of the Gulf of Mexico and the system of waterways connected with it are magic for my wild self.

Pre-dawn moments Gulf State Park Pier Autumn 2014
Pre-dawn moments Gulf State Park Pier Autumn 2014