Today’s picture of the day is of the sailing vessel Antigua and some blue whale; you can see two in the picture but there were 6 swimming together. Not much is known about blue whales especially where and when they breed. This was truly a rare sight and for many a once in a life time opportunity.
Whale sightings were nothing new to the crew of the RRS James Clark Ross, they were so frequent we would start getting down in the dumps if we hadn’t seen any for a few days. These pictures where taken off the coast of Longyearbyan, Svalbard a place where we had daily sightings of minke whales and the odd puffin but certainly wildlife nowhere near as diverse as Antarctica.
My watch keeper, John, was keeping a keen eye on the Antigua to make sure that we were not on a collision course, he said he saw a huge blow from a whale right in front of the Antigua, I hunted for the binoculars, again, another blow…he says that these are the biggest whale blows he’s ever seen and he guesses it’s a blue whale, at this point I’m still hunting from my Bins (passengers have an awful habit of moving them. I’m sailor silver-tongued and claiming BS, there is no way it can be a bluey, surely.
Finally my binos are located and I see a few small blows, I tell john that they’re not *insert all matter of profanity here* blue whales they are just fin whales; the second largest type of whale and common place ‘down south’. None the less the Radio Officer is called (we needed a witness). John… still convinced they are blue insists we keep looking, that’s when we saw it, almost like an explosion, this whale blow to end all whale blows erupting from the dark blue seas, almost like canon fire from the bow of the tall ship… I have witnesses that will testify to this… the blows dwarfed the mast of the Antigua. I put a PA announcement out to alert everyone that they were about to see nature at its largest.
People came, they saw, they took many pictures. We radioed the Antigua who coincidentally had a whale expert onboard, he confirmed 2 adults 4 calfs. The Antigua was merrily sailing along side these giants of the ocean as they seemed to play across their bow and in their wake, much the same as a dolphin would. The whales dived on a number of occasions and showed their flukes and tiny dorsal fin. The blues have a very gentle and shallow lift of the tail when they dive, very distinct, very graceful.
People eventually got bored or ran out of space on their SD cards and left me and John to watch these whales for 4 straight hours edging closer and closer and then turning away increasing our frustration, certainly an experience I will not forget.
In all of my excitement; I’m not sure if I ever did apologise to John for calling BS on his sighting but John if you are reading this mate, next round is on me!