‘Whale Watching Season is Back. How Close is too Close?’
The Guardian 2013.
The whales, those dark airships, are back. We are entranced. It is enough to stop in the day, send our minds far – somewhere, out there, are whales. A shivering thought. The imaginary territory of the ocean can be populated with the idea of whales again, just as whale drolleries once menaced voyagers from the corners of their incomplete maps. Those pictograms seem bizarre to the modern viewer: whales with cat faces, whiskers and ears, collared and sprouting tusks. Once upon a time, there was a real possibility that whales might become mythical animals, long since driven out of the sea – and though we have a better notion of their appearance today, part of the enthrallment is their annual disappearance.
Whales bring with them the message that there are places we have restrained ourselves from encroaching upon. In a shrinking world, we are captivated by those things that stay out of touch. Whales drag in their wake the mystery of unexplored, unseen zones; deep animal hotels in the ocean. We are eager to get closer to that, when we can.
The whales stay out on the horizon. Scanning the dazzle, you’ll need binoculars to pick out the tiny uprushes of air, as if someone had pierced the surface of the ocean with a pin. Better yet, take a chartered tour-boat. So when a whale turns and careens in our direction, when a whale comes barreling through the breakers, the thrill is that the wild faraway has chosen to draw up alongside us. We like to reflect on our smallness then, flanked by this small planet of mammal.