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    SD1: sailing and whaling
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2014 Jul 13, 15:00 -0700

    Continuing from my earlier message...

    After our wake-up call, it was time for a quick 'hoe bath' in the little sink (three toilets, one sink). There was a nice breakfast of pancakes and bacon and fruit over on the Mystic Whaler, which was tied up right alongside. Given my lack of sleep, I was happy for the early morning overcast and a little chill in the air. You won't be seeing an entry in the informal sunrise photo contest from Stellwagen Day 1. Lisa, Anne, and Gary sampled and examined a little plankton and added some entries in the 'critter log' that's been kept on each sailing leg. Guests and others then boarded and we had some safety discussions, and then the tugboat Sirius began towing us out of Provincetown Harbor. Sails were set, but for the first couple of hours there was barely any wind. As we rounded the west shore of the "fist" of the Cape, the Sun came out, and I began shooting sights with my octant, c.1840, and my modern sextant. That was my job: to provide visuals for the hired cameramen, and I hope they got what they needed. We Voyagers chatted and learned from each other. Really interesting. Some voyagers took turns at the helm. Around 10:30 (?), approaching whale-watching territory, the tow was dropped and more sails were set. It was much more pleasant, both aesthetically and also simply because those huge sails provided some shade from the hot sun.

    About 11:00, now a few miles north of the Cape, Barbara Bosworth began setting up her large format camera. Other cameras are magnetically drawn to Professor Bosworth and her camera like compass needles aligning with a stronger magnetic field. We were talking about the visual possibilities of the sky and ocean, and she joked that it would be nice if a whale would pop up in frame during those rare moments when her camera takes an exposure. I agreed to call a whale... "Here whale, whale, whale..." Sure. That'll work. I walked away and a few seconds later over my shoulder, I heard an unmistakable sound. It was that hollow, pipe-organ "Hhhhoosh" of a whale blowing! I ran back, and less than a hundred feet away, a while was surfacing and breathing. This was our first whale of the day and the Morgan's first whale of the century. Anne DiMonti, 38th Voyager with cetacean expertise, identified it as a Minke whale. To my untrained eye, it looked like a smaller than average humpback whale. It was 15:06 GMT on July 11, 2014; the first whale encountered by the Charles W. Morgan in ninety years. I heard from some crew that a couple of them were watching it from the rigging and could make out its full shape from above as it swam along just below the surface.

    Taylor Sahl assured me when we chatted on the prep day, April 30, at Mystic Seaport that he was confident we would see whales and probably quite a few. He knew what he was talking about from personal experience in the whale biz. And that whale-watching business was actually a bit helpful for us looking for whales since the whale-watching crews seemed to have skill at finding whales. We saw many spouts and surfacing whales near other vessels about a mile from us. We made time for lunch (see photo below) in the middle of all this fun. With so much activity, I couldn't find anyone to pay attention to that most important traditional celestial navigation ritual, the sight for latitude at high noon (around 12:50 EDT), but I got my sights and found our latitude anyway. Meanwhile, a whaleboat was lowered and Sean Bercaw and his crew found themselves closer to a humpback than they could believe. Thanks to the telephoto effect collapsing distance, there are now some amazing photos in Mystic Seaport's collection showing whaleboats nearly on top of whales. These images will serve Mystic Seaport in a thousand ways for decades to come. Mission accomplished.

    One humpback whale appeared dramatically close to the Morgan's port side, less than a hundred feet out. Some nice photos and videos were captured from Rena which was trailing us. A bit later, a whale (possibly the same one) appeared on the starboard side and momentously slapped the water with its flukes. Naturally, everyone wanted to interpret that as a message to the Morgan. Someone called it "apology accepted". I saw it more as a "screw you, whaleship! And don't come back!" In reality, of course, the whale was just grazing among the delicious fishes of Stellwagen Bank...

    As the day wore on, it was time to head south and conduct interviews and assess the significance of the day. More to follow.

    Frank Reed
    Conanicut Island USA

     



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