[IMAGE] Orca and Mt. Rainier, July 1, 2014.

…click to listen:

…about the music

I’ve posted this excerpt before, but now it’s finally entirely appropriate.

It was an other-worldly sound.
I’d never heard anything like it before.
And it was CLOSE.

My face was staring deeply into a 27″ monitor, as my brain was staring deeply into a new electroacoustic piece for double reed choir. Throughout the day, the sounds in my head had been accompanied by the sultry blows of killer whales. They glided past my window in tight duos and trios, first up the coast, and later, down the coast. And, back up again. Islanders call this “the Westside Shuffle.” I call it a welcome distraction from all my work.


What the hell was THAT???

The sudden sound was twice as loud as any blow before it, and twice as low in register.
Very startled, I looked up.

And there, lumbering gracefully past my nose, was a Humpback whale, hugging the kelp line.
It was no more than 50 yards away from me.
And it was huge.
Although they’re known to traverse these waters, I’d never seen one here before. It absolutely took my breath away.

I only managed a handful of shots before s/he took a deep breath and submerged until well out of view.

Here’s the unmistakable dorsal that puts the Hump in Humpback:

[IMAGE] Humpback dorsal

And the fluke:

[IMAGE] Humpback fluke

I was in awe.

Photos– particularly my pitifully amateur ones– cannot do justice to a natural world experienced in all dimensions. But to give you an idea of scale, here’s what I’m used to seeing in front of me on a very regular basis each summer: a 25 foot Orca, next to a 26 foot fishing boat:

[IMAGE] Orca and boat

Or next to a few [slightly intimidated] kayakers:

[IMAGE] Orca and kayakers

Or, next to my friends who were fishing (for salmon, not Orca despite what it looks like) in a 16 foot boat:
[IMAGE] Orca and boat

“We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Now, imagine a mammal at least twice as big in all directions.
Unspeakably wonderful.

[IMAGE] Orca and three sea birds

Editor’s Note (yup, that would be me, Alex): I post photos on my Facebook page far more frequently than I post to this blog these days. Nope, I’m not resigning from Kelpville, and I plan to blog more frequently this summer now that I’m in one whale-filled place for a while. But I invite any of my Notes from the Kelp readers to “friend” me on Facebook if you’d like to see more of what I see. If you don’t think I know you, just mention something about kelp, and I’ll approve the request!