I was in a small boat surrounded by vastly vaster whales. They rose to breath and then dived, they paced the boat, they approached the boat for pats and hugs and kisses. The horizon was filled with them.
It was then I observed a behaviour I had never seen before, and I began to suspect that it had never been recorded by anyone. The whale by the boat was spinning like a top in a horizontal plane, a glorious exuberant detonation of excitement.
It was then I woke up, but the excitement of my contribution to science and the deeper joy of my communion with the whales took some time to fade. The day before I had been speaking at Stanford’s Literary Festival at the Destinations travel show at Olympia – about my new book Ten Million Aliens — and there I had met three people who had shared a whale adventure with me.
We were with the travel company Wildlife Worldwide in San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja California, Mexico. Here the grey whales comes for the summer, all crowded together because at this time of year they don’t eat, so they’re not in competition for food. They really are everywhere. Every day you see dozens. It’s a party, in short.
And they do indeed come up to the boat to be patted and petted, or just to pace themselves alongside the boat. It really is the most extraordinary experience. As we humans talked of old whale-times in London, we remembered one lovely woman, a midwife, who cried every single time she saw a whale.
But I was most moved by the thought that this lagoon was once a killing-field. The whales were called devil-fish for the intelligent and belligerent way they would seek out and capsize open boats. We were all in just such an open boat: and yet the whales sought us out only for their own amusement. When whale-tourism first began in San Ignacio, some of the whales that came up to the boat bore unmistakable harpoon scars.
Don’t talk wet.
But whales and humans really do come together, each of their own volition, and apparently in search of nothing but a good time. That really is something, is it not?
Such things as dreams are made on.