Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran’s Daydreaming (guest starring the Bryde's whale)

One of my many roles as the illustrious 'visiting scientist' out here is to sight whales. You guessed it: glorified whale watching! This job usually entails many lonely hours searching the horizon line for that distant whale spout, desperately trying to hold binocular still on an ever rolling ship, while squinting into the sun ... somehow we're always facing into the sun when I'm on watch! Sounds grueling, I know, but it's one of my favorite things to do. For better or worse, it affords a lot of time to think. Usually after about 2.3 seconds my mind starts to wander.

Nestled amongst some of the tiny blips of sand that held great strategic importance during the Second World War (ie., Wake Island, Midway Atoll and Pearl Harbor), I imagine what it would have been like to be out here as a young man seventy years ago. Out here among the sunshine, waves and wispy clouds of the great Pacific, but instead of searching for whales and seabirds, I'm looking for Japanese warships and aircraft. I would not be naive to the fact that the enemy aircraft are instructed to take down my ship at any cost. My ship is my only lifeline. We are SO far from anything; I haven't seen land in weeks. Would help even come if my ship went down? Even if they new where we went, it would be weeks if not months before they could get here! Sunburn, thirst, starvation, sharks, misery!

As my eye catches a far off splash, my mind snaps back to the job at hand, "BLOW at 30 degrees left!” I yell. I look down; I feel Goosebumps rise on my arms.

I'm sure some of those boys must have had short attention spans too. I bet they used to think frustratedly, "why do we always seem to face into the sun when I'm on watch?" I'll even bet that one of them saw a whale spout on the distant horizon and daydreamt of what it would be like to be a whale biologist. Maybe they got Goosebumps thinking of a peaceful world where people could devote time to studying instead of killing.

At the end of this long day, we were greeted by a feeding Bryde's whale. The bait ball on which our whale fed was immense and the scene featured the whole cast of usual characters: tuna, mahi mahi, marlin, droves of seabirds, and even a colossal whale shark!!

On this veteran's day, I thank the men and women of our armed services, especially those that fought in these waters some 70 years ago, many of whom paid the ultimate price. They fought and died so that I, two generations removed, could study instead of fight.

1 comment:

Phaedra said...

That's my man! Incredible! Beautiful thoughts and sights!