As a child I loved to get library books that looked at the world through cross-sections and comparison scales. A cross section showing the different levels of the ocean ranging from the light-active Photic Zone to the deep Abyssal Zone. Or the ever popular illustration comparing a blue whale to the weight of 40 elephants and the length of three school buses. These images are powerful and effective… but not accurate when expressing the raw majesty of a whale or the absence of human exploration at the bottom of the sea.
After our exposure to these images, there can be an underwhelming feeling about seeing the real thing. In fact very little of a whale is often seen from the surface. Sometimes just a tiny, dark blur or a cloud of mist. Last year I saw a mother whale with a young one: a large explosion of mist followed by a small puff of mist. I pointed this pair out to some others on the beach. The people smiled at me and nodded, faking interest and then left at the first opportunity. The very fact that whales often glide by in an understated manner (these whales never make the news), is the very reason that seems to pull me in. It is like an Alfred Hitchcock thriller: where the suspense is built around the not knowing and not seeing. A shadow cast on a whale is all we need to have our attention completely gripped and our imagination activated. It is the same with whales. It is incredibly poetic that the largest creatures on earth often pass mostly unseen except for their breath.