|Humpback breaching. Photo courtesy of Paul A. Souders//CORBIS and The Guardian, UK|
One day I will don snorkeling gear and plunge into the warm blue waters off Turks and Caicos for an adventure of epic proportions. Picture the focus of my adventure - the beautiful and massive humpback whale - a creature that weighs up to 50 tons, whose proportions would dwarf a double decker bus, and whose heart alone weighs more than a grown man.
Now picture yourself - a tiny insignificant morsel in the world of humpback whales. You may find yourself swimming within feet of a gaping mouth that swallows 2000 kg per day. If you haven't been scared off yet, this sounds like a most fantastic adventure for anyone armed with a little imagination and one important fact: humpback whales are baleen whales - their diet consists entirely of tiny filtered krill, plankton, and small fish - not people!
Salt Cay at Turks and Caicos is a humpback winter nursery where 2.5 ton baby whales are born and nurtured. Mothers drift through sparkling waters, calves shadowing their every move, amid eerie calls that form a strange and beautiful language. If I'm lucky, and especially if males are showing off for potential mates, I'll likely see rowdy whale-sized antics that will be awesome on a massive scale. Breaching, or jumping ends with a loud slap that can be heard up to a kilometer away. And if the humpback has any curiosity about its observers, it will observe us back by 'spyhopping' - poking it's head out of the water to check us out. Wait thirty seconds or so and you're sure to witness a four meter fountain at each whale exhale.
I have to confess to a childish side that emerges each time the words 'humpback whale' are added to this text. My only 'real' experience with whales is through Disney and visions of Dory speaking whale haunt all my efforts at sensible contemplation.
This Fantasy Friday will have to be fulfilled as I am sure that Disney with its hilarious rendition cannot capture the awe I would feel in the presence of a humpback whale.