An encounter of biblical proportions off the coast of Sri Lanka. January 2018.
“And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly”
The blue whale grows up to 30 meters in length and weighs 200 tonnes. Those are numbers I can't really even comprehend. Benchmarks help somewhat: that's a 10 story building, 3 school buses, an airplane, 25 elephants. That's silly because I stop counting in elephants after 5.
Nothing really prepares you for that first jump. A massive spout spotted in the distance (all very 'thar she blows!'), the gunning of the boat, watching for that massive milky shadow to see if it's all lined up right, then 'Jump! Jump!'
An adrenaline fueled leap, knowing there's a behemoth lurking just under. A splash, and then blue silence.
The bubbles clear, the eyes adjust and scan, not knowing what they're looking for. They quickly lock on though, to a giant shadow, already massive but growing every second as it approaches. Everything comes into focus and the moment sinks in - I am face to face with a blue whale. It takes the breath away - not helpful when free diving and desperately trying to avoid surfacing.
What struck me most was the beauty and grace of its movement. Effortless. Gliding by at incredible speeds with only a gentle undulating of its surprisingly serpentine body. It tilts its head slightly to level the eyes in order to consider this tiny awkward land mammal struggling to keep up. It is past me in a flash, and I am left watching a never ending body sweep by like a subway train.
The last sight of its tail vanishing into the deep blue is an image that will continue to haunt me. Only at this point do I realise my lungs are screaming for air. And only after breaking the surface do I hear my heart slamming against my chest. We managed 6 jumps with 6 different whales over 7 hours at sea. Each completely unique, and equally awe inspiring.