#DayofSelfExpression May 20, 2017 – A Whale Story

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Nancy Holt a Whale Story

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#DayofSelfExpression Journal Prompt

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A Whale of something is unusually grand, large or good. Thus a whale of a tale is a story that is unusually grand or funny.  Everyone has those things that happened in their lives that perhaps were just too strange to be believed.  Everyone has their own personal fish stories.

Journal Assignment for All Ages:

Think of something interesting or unusual that has happened to you or someone you know.  Craft your own “Whale of a Tale”

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Today on #DayofSelfExpression

Today’s feature is a personal narrative by Nancy Holt.  Several years ago she took an Alaskan cruise.  During the cruise she experienced her first whale sighting.  What follows is her retelling of that event.

#dayofselfexpression Nancy Holt a whale story

A Whale Story


Several hours passed. The drone of the engine became monotonous. Mountains with pine trees taller than church steeples lines the waterway on both sides, reflecting green against the water, creating the feeling that we were passing through an emerald hallway.

It was rather ironic when the inspirational beauty of Alaska’s Southeast Passage became bland. The first eagles that flew overhead were exciting, but soon, after seeing so many, no one looked up when one of the children pointed out another. As we entered Steven’s Passage, we passed a luxury cruise ship the dwarfed our smaller boat. The excitement of the colossal ocean liner quickly passed as the ship faded around a bend. Some of the passengers dozed; some started card games. Parents grew weary of entertaining children who ran out of things to do within the first hour. Each of us took our turn sitting up with the captain, but even that quickly lost its appeal.

In the late morning I once again climbed the stairs to the captain’s area. I sat on the wooden bench in front of the captain and gazed unfocused at the sea ahead. The passage was wide in this area, and opened into another passage that led off in another direction. My eyes began to droop when I suddenly thought I missed something outside my peripheral vision. Wondering what my imagination was doing this time, I shook the sleep from my head and searched in that direction. Nothing was there; the water remained unchanged across the horizon. Then, of to the left, I caught a glimpse of it again. It looked like a little geyser in the middle of an ocean of dreary grey, perhaps a faucet turned upside down, pouring a quick stream into the sky. I hesitated to define what I saw, still not sure it was real.

Instantly the whole boat was a stir. “Whale!” the children shrieked. The grown-ups grabbed their cameras and ran out on the deck. I stayed glued to my seat in front of the captain. He steered the boat toward where there were now three spouts of water randomly spurting out of the ocean. A huge tail popped out of the water, flung itself into the air, and splashed back into the water. Before I could get my camera ready, another spout of water and another huge tail broke the surface just yards from the boat. I glanced up at the captain and he silently motioned for me to go out on the deck. I swung my camera strap over my shoulder, and stumbled down the stairs and through the cabin. I shoved my way through the huddle of my traveling companions to claim a position at the rail when a massive grey creature swam alongside of the boat. What seemed to be mere yards away, close enough that I could imagine reaching out and touching the knobby gray skin, the whale swam beside us. He matched our boat in both length and speed, almost like we were two friends strolling down the street together. It was spiritual; I wanted to cry.

The sounds of cameras clicking all around me broke my daze, reminding me that I too should be taking pictures. I brought the camera to my eye and began focusing when the mammoth tail swung into the air and then viciously slapped the water’s surface. Icy droplets of water showered my Nikon and me. Even the oldest passengers became children again as they were showered with the frigid seawater spray. The whale disappeared, then surface many yards in front of us. He blew another of column of water, flipped his tail at us one more time as if to say goodbye. And he was gone. I let my camera fall against my chest knowing I had just missed the grandest photo opportunity in my life. The picture of the great humpback was etched in my mind, but how could I ever convey to my family and friends the pure poser and glory of such a creature?

The rest of our tour shouted of Alaska’s Southeast Passage splendor. The captain obviously had toured this route many times, as he was able to guide the vessel nimbly.   We rode close enough to an ice burg to be able to touch the smooth glassy surface. We floated so close to a rocky mountain side that the children stuck their heads into a stream of freezing water falling from a mountain cliff. Adults grabbed handfuls of the falling liquid to taste the clear mountain water not yet contaminated by civilization. We watched hundreds of gray seals floating on their individual blocks of ice, sunning themselves on a cloudy day. Younger frisky seals barked and played, diving from one ice float and jumping onto another. In front of us, South Sawyer Glaciers loomed out of the sea as if great waves rose from the bottom of the sea and froze in midair. We frighteningly close to the great blue wall and heard the thunderous roar as huge pieces of the glacier broke away and fell into the sea. The most splendorous natural displays in America, and I failed to be impressed. Instead, the vision of being almost close enough to touch a humpback whale, feeling his grand power as he flipped his tail in salutation, burned into my mind and paled any other site.

After the tour was over and I was back in my motel room, I phoned my children and tried to convey to them some of the awe I felt at the sight of the whale. They were unimpressed.


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