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2013 Road Trip Photos #16: Parts of a Whale

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Several different Cape Cod companies offer whale-watching cruises. Your family boards a large boat with dozens of other passengers, spends an hour circumnavigating the Cape, spends another hour or two in the nearest part of the Atlantic Ocean searching for signs of whales, seeks every possible opportunity to gaze upon a real whale in the wild, and spends another hour returning to port. Their cruises are short, fast, and noncommittal compared to your average week-long Alaskan cruise. If you have no real reason to remain out to sea for days, it’s a much more affordable open-water sampling method.

Such a vacation plan begs the question: did we actually see any whales?

The answer: yes, but not an entire whale. We had no moment of cinematic majesty in which a humpback whale vaulted high above the sails in slow motion for the perfect photo op. Not once did a sperm whale jut its head out of the water and spray water through its blowhole in our faces. Nor did we witness a single second of an entire whale pod racing across the surface or dancing together in an intricately choreographed Busby Berkeley extravaganza. That would’ve been worth twice the ticket price, but you have to understand: those scenes in movies and TV shows are performed by Hollywood stunt whales. In our world, not every whale is that gifted, or that starved for human attention.

With that in mind, my family and I bring you the following display of cinema verité, in which we present what whale photography really looks like without a special effects budget. Behold the wonder of nature at its finest!

whale, Cape Cod

Please allow this MCC entry to serve as a Certificate of Authenticity to prove to the world that this really, truly is what the back of a whale looks like. Because of all that swimming and nonstop oceanic movement, whales are terrible at holding still and posing for photos. They don’t take direction very well and no amount of cash bribery will change that.

whale back, Cape Cod

All but one of these shots were my wife’s doing. Our cameras are both from the same manufacturer and line, but hers is a few years newer than mine and therefore a lot less fussy.

whale part, Cape Cod

You’ll notice discoloration in two of these shots. That’s because of the thunderstorm that overtook us partway through the trip. It blasted us for ten or fifteen minutes, driving us all inside the boat and dispelling the Atlantic Ocean’s blue hue for a while.

whale fin, Cape Cod

Notice a slight bit of blowhole action caught in this shot, as evidence that we were whale-watching, not rock-watching or garbage-watching. Those options are probably offered by other cruise lines at drastically reduced prices.

whale blowhole spray, Cape Cod

Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises did their part in transporting us as quickly as possible to the areas where other cruise captains lucked into random whale sightings. The thrill of the chase was especially exhilarating for those of us who’d never ridden in speeding watercraft before.

whale, boat, Cape Cod

We also didn’t have the luxury of any whales rolling onto their backs, lifting their heads up to glare at us, or spending more than a minute or so at a time when they surfaced. Once they refilled on oxygen, they went on their merry way whether we were ready to let them go or not.

whale back, Cape Cod

Instead of another sleek, monotonous whale back, for a change of pace please enjoy a generous glimpse of some tail.

whale tail, Cape Cod

Fleeting and incomplete though these visual examples were, we appreciated the chance to see even that much of a whale. They’re not something we’ve seen in zoos, or even in the aquariums we’ve visited. We’ve encountered plenty of sharks and other large aquatic life in captivity, but never a boat-sized marine mammal.

whale tail, Cape Cod

Out of all our time at sea, I can pick out one moment in which we were closest to genuine whale parts: when one of our tour guides walked around with a free sample of baleen. We were allowed to touch it and discover its smoothness for ourselves, but we had to share with all the other customers and weren’t allowed to take it home.

whale baleen, Cape Cod

To us it was a great new experience nonetheless.

To be continued!

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]

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