Message of love from beneath the ocean

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  • Stunning sight: a humpback whale and her calf hang motionless as rays of light illuminate their broad, scarred backs

    Stunning sight: a humpback whale and her calf hang motionless as rays of light illuminate their broad, scarred backs
    (Photograph by Andrew Stevenson)


For some reason, I imagined whale watching as unromantic, on the “things to do” list for tourists.

I imagined myself on a big boat with a loud group of strangers, bobbing around for hours on the vast ocean, trying to find distant whales, hopefully not becoming seasick. If we were lucky, somewhere in the distance we would see a big splash or a disappearing tail.

So I thought, until last Sunday. Bill and I were invited out on a friend’s boat to try our luck. It was a crystal clear day with not a cloud in the endless blue sky and a fresh breeze blowing from the south. The gentle swells were in ever-changing shades of aquamarine and the sunlight dazzled silver on the wave crests as we climbed up and over them. It was in a word, breathtaking. “Even if we don’t see any whales, this is incredible,” I said to myself.

Five years ago, when I met Andrew Stevenson, I did not yet know about his important project that identifies and documents the hundreds of humpback whales that migrate past Bermuda en route from the Caribbean to the North Atlantic. We went through the usual small talk people do when they meet for the first time, when suddenly Andrew asked me a question that astonished me and turned my whole notion of whales upside down.

“Have you ever heard the whales singing?” he asked.

“Do they sing?” I couldn’t believe it.

“Absolutely! It is such a sad and sometimes mournful sound that, once heard, it is impossible to forget,” he assured me.

“How? Where?” He was smiling at my excitement and incredulous look.

“Right here in Bermuda.” It was hard for me to believe.

When I got home, I listened on YouTube to songs of humpback whales. I learnt that they are considered one of the most complex communications in the animal kingdom. Whales in Alaska sing songs that other whales reply to thousands of miles away in Hawaii. Most surprisingly, the songs are beautiful — lyric and haunting and otherworldly.

That evening my dream was born. I wanted to find whales in the wild ocean and to listen to their ancient songs.

My dream came true last Sunday.

Several miles off Pompano Beach we found our friends in their sturdy little craft, floating quietly like a leaf on the rolling swells. “Get ready!” they yelled. “We just saw some!”

We slipped into our fins and sat on the edge of our boat holding our masks and snorkels ready. In scarcely a few minutes, a huge grey back broke the surface and then disappeared about 50 metres away. We drifted with the engine off as time ticked by and we scanned the surface. Where could they be? We slid over the side for a look.

When people ask whether the water was cold I say, I don’t know because I was so excited. When they ask if I was scared I reply, not at all.

Instead, I was stunned by the rush of beauty below me.

By sheer chance, when we entered the ocean, there was a mother humpback whale and her calf. They swam towards us and hung motionless above a brilliant white sand hole. Rays of surface light trembled in shafts that illuminated their broad, scarred backs. The calf slowly slid underneath the mother’s giant bulk, and the undeniable tenderness with which she shielded the baby touched my soul. The mother was not frightened in any way, it was a gesture she had done countless times: “You are my precious child. Come close where you are safe with me. Just in case.” This was love. Irrefutable and pure.

The baby poked its head out with the curiosity of all children and, seeing our small shapes at the surface, glided alongside her mother and moved slowly across the reef. Their white flukes touched briefly and I thought if they were people, they would be holding hands.

I didn’t hear my whale songs that day, but I received a message from the universe both clear and unmistakable. Love is in all things great and small. And that is why we sing.

Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with her at ninalondon.com

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Published Apr 19, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Apr 18, 2018 at 11:24 pm)

Message of love from beneath the ocean

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