It was one of those May afternoons, grey, misty, somewhat breezy. It had been raining and the whole town of Horta was wet. Not really in the mood for a day at the sea, but it was not a great day weather wise.
We had a few returning guests –Sally and Paul, which are friends– supposed to stay for 12 days and take two trips per day. Yes, 2 trips per day! They wanted to give it a try. Together with some other participants, including Jaime from Spain –or the “Crazy Spaniard”, as we named him…– with 6 passengers on board. Things looked promising!
The lookout gave us the information we were expecting, Sperm Whales spotted, south of Pico island, not far from the coast. Off we went.
Usual logistics, experienced customers, me as the Captain, Marc and Nacho as guides and photographers. After some time, narrowing the Sperm whales position with the very useful hydrophone, a big male surfaced. Full speed, approach, slow down… Creep up behind the giant, no reaction. “Cool!”, we all thought. As predicted, after a few minutes, big tail in the air, “there he goes!”. Big whale, big dive.
As we are congratulating ourselves, exchanging smiles and comments, on the radio, comes “does anyone want to see a Blue Whale?” screeching words… “Hell yeah!” goes Sally! “It’s a bit far, all the way in front of Horta’s airport. If you know the islands, this was about 10 miles from where we were.
“Take your seats, we have a bumpy road ahead of us!”. Motivation was high, while we sailed, following all the directions the lookout was providing. “Those blows you see close to you are Fin whales, not what you want. Ignore them!”. Yes, Sir. I thought!
Arrived at the area, half a mile from the shoreline, clearly two sets of blows sighted in the distance. Two animals, not small, no sir. We approached the first one, Blue whale for sure. Normal behaviour, half a dozen blows, followed by a deeper dive, some 8 or 9 minutes of absence. In the meantime, the other blow seemed bigger, more powerful. But we stayed with this first one for a while.
It looked like they were feeding, cool to watch, not very difficult to follow their surface time. There were no more boats around, only the noise of the water softly hitting the boat. It was almost time to had to return to the harbour. And then, it started…
The bigger one decided to approach the boat, from the larboard side. Cameras and attention pointed! About 15 seconds at the surface and it dived very close to us. Emotions were running high. I don’t remember exactly how many dives we saw from this individual, but I do remember the last one.
While Nacho was perched behind me on top of the roll-bar, camera in hand, Marc was enjoying the moment, as well as the participants.
Blow! Where? Right in front of us!
Ok, now I am facing a giant… 3 times the size of our 8.5 meters-log boat. It swam towards us, head on. “Ok, stay calm, she knows where we are…”
Much closer this time… I remember the “Ohs!” and “Ahs!”, while my brain was trying to decide how to take the next step as the Capitan of the boat. Well, the whale decided that for me.
Diving right in front of us, swam under the boat, while Marc struggled as he tried to get the GoPro as fast as possible under the water –only got a few seconds of it, beneath the surface–. Some yelling, some shouting, while the giant beast swam visibly under us, too close for comfort, emerging behind us only to dive again after one of the most powerful blows I have ever heard –or maybe it just the emotions magnifying everything.
Hugging ensued, fist bumps, more shouting, more yelling… “Everyone ok?” Well, what do you think?
We all agreed that that moment was the best end to our adventure. “This whale deserves a rest now…” said Paul. And off we went, slowly going back to port.
Well, Blue whales can definitely provide excitement.
Humans become excited beyond belief just watching Nature;
Whales DO bring people together –we all went out for dinner that night, invited by Jaime!
We hope you enjoyed this story, it’s definitely one of the most emotional moments we can remember.
Authors: Pedro Filipe and Maria Serra from Azores Experiences
This post was adapted from a blog, read the original here
Acknowledges to Nacho Oria for adding some details to the story. Pictures from Marc Perrussel.