Where have all the whales gone?

By Jacqueline Dowling

In 2014 I wrote the following piece in response to Penny leaving out a pom pom in The Little Drummer Boy.

This year, things have changed – a bit. The Christmas decs popped up all over our local retail stores, thankfully sans carols and groaning Crosby, at the moment. October 15th. So, when I enter the hallowed (by xmas trees) precincts, I turn right, away from the toys and toys and toys and get down to cabbages and grapes (or similar). Much more satisfying nutritionally. . .

So what’s changed? The whales have gone elsewhere, that’s what. We haven’t seen one close in this year. The boat cruises tell us that they’re far out because of warmer water – maybe, or perhaps they’re lying on a slab out east. I hope not. There was a timewhen we counted twenty five really close in, leaping, playing, mating. This year – uh uh. Nix, nada.

This is what I wrote, and I hope I’ll be able to write in a more positive frame of mind next season. I miss hearing them blow in the still of the night, and their mighty leaps out at sea.

Image result for hermanus whales images

The day was hot, no white Christmas in sight. Red nosed reindeer and jingling bells wilted in the heat.

Glitzy trees flashed their signals – Come and Spend spend spend. Only nine hundred and sixty shopping hours left ’til Christmas.

And then I heard it, very faintly through the hubbub and clatter of trolleys, the cadences easy and gentle. ‘….And he smiled at me – pa – rup -a -pom -pom…‘ suddenly my hectic materialistic world, for a moment stood still.

I left the noise, the bling and frenetic Come and buy buy buy of the stores and went down to the cliffs. To the sea. To the birds and whales.

The rocks were warm, the sea just a summer whisper of clear aquamarine. Sapphire pools filled with tiny darting fish and huge waving sea-anemones where flocks of oyster catchers strutted their scarlet way, their high pitched wheeeee carried on the southerly breeze. Across the bay Southern Right whales spouted and lolled, glossy black; lazy in the swells. I was quite alone, blissfully detached . But still the haunting lyrics of The Little Drummer Boy stayed with me, like a carousel going around and around – and around.

A shadow moved into the pool at my feet, silently slipping through the kelp. A large shadow, followed by a much smaller one. It was a whale cow with her newly born calf. She came to rest within metres of my rock, nudged the little body towards her and suckled it. I watched, awed by the love between these two gentle creatures, by their grace and utter trust.

This African nativity- no shepherds, no kings or wise men. Just a timeless and beautiful reminder, suspended, for a moment in the crystalline waters, of a humble birth, so long ago: and what it has come to mean to us.

Then, in one swift movement, the mother thrust her calf to the surface and blew.

Twin spouts of warm oily mist drifted towards me as she raised her head, opened her massive baleen jaws – and smiled.

Image result for hermanus whales images

Until next season – when I so hope this will ring true again…