15 Whales for my 30th Birthday
By Helen Peterson
Entered in our Win a Winter Getaway to the Oregon Coast Contest
For my 30th Birthday, my family sent me on my first Zodiac Whale Watching Trip with Marine Biologist Carrie Newell. It was a beautiful, crisp October day with blue skies and perfectly calm seas. I was nervous about being in a boat that small, but was soon fascinated with the ocean life around me and forgot my fears. Learning about the Western Gulls and their “automatic puke buttons”, the Californian Sea lion “Male Losers” on the bell buoy, and seeing a huge Sun Fish on the surface using the sun to reduce parasites was only the warm up for what was to come. The first whale we saw that day captured my heart and is forever more my favorite whale. He is known as Eagle Eye because of the white eye-shaped patch near his dorsal hump. He swam right up to the boat and popped his head up in greeting. He was so close; I could have reached out to touch him. Eagle Eye spent the next 20 minutes swimming around, right next to, and UNDER our little boat. It’s breathtaking to look to your left and see the front half of a whale under your boat and then to your right and see his tail. Next, we met a bonded pair of whales that were surfacing and diving in perfect synchronization. The beauty of it was astounding. Then we met Bubbles, who starts to spout before breaking the surface of the water, and then Knifer, who survived a killer whale attack and has tooth-rakes that spell his name on his fluke. Over that extraordinary 2-hour boat ride, we saw 15 different whales and had extremely close encounters with at least half of them. It was an amazing birthday and an Oregon Coast experience that I will treasure always.