A Tale of Whales, Dolphins and a Glowing Ocean

Although we have been only at sea for about a month, we already witnessed a myriad of wonders of the ocean. Like a couple of days ago, how long exactly I honestly can’t remember, when I was just about to relax on the main deck and started reading a book, as I suddenly heard the lookout scream „There’s a whale on starboard, whale on starboard!“ Everyone ran to the poop deck to get a good look of that huge animal. It was about 50 meters away from us, and swimming towards us. For the next 2 hours almost, the whole crew was cramped on the poop deck, looking for the whale. Every couple of minutes when it resurfaced to fill its lungs with air again, everyone was looking at it in complete awe. It didn’t always stay on starboard, so sometimes when everyone was looking for it on one side, someone spotted it on the other side, thus everyone was hurrying across the deck to get a good look at it. After some time, we started to try and found out what kind of whale it was. After we got a good look at its tail, blowhole and head, we determined it was a fin whale. With about 15-18 meters it was actually a rather small specimen, as they can grow up to 25 meters. We even tried to record the whales calls by hanging a microphone in the water, but only the splashing sound of the waves could be heard. It stayed with us for several hours, some people say they even saw the whale in the middle of the night, and we named it „Waltraut“.

That was our first encounter with these monstrous mammals of the ocean, but not our last. Like on Saturday, when we went for a swim in the ocean. Right when we were talking about what had to be done to take down all of the sails so that we can jump in the water, there were two whales escorting us for a while. This time, we actually managed to record the whales conversations, which consisted of beautiful purring, high pitched calls and low cackling. Later, when we went swimming, they stayed at a distance, yet it was still a strange feeling to swim in an ocean several kilometres deep, with whales nearby. There were other whales spotted on several occasions as well, with a similar effect of a lot of people cramming on the poop deck.

But we have seen more than whales. When our engine is off, we were often escorted by dolphins playing in our bow wave. Similar as with the whale, someone would shout „Dolphin on portside“ and everyone who heard it would come together on the railing to get a look at the animal jumping, swimming and playing through the waves. They unfortunately never stayed for long, after some time, maybe an hour, they would leave us to play elsewhere.

Many times, when I was standing tired and bored in the lookout at night, I was entertained by a beautiful spectacle of nature. Whenever a wave would break or crash against our hull, there was a faint glitter to be seen. Some nights it was barely more than a short flash of light, others illuminated the whole wave. Sometimes some water would splash on the ship and could be seen sparkling against our red deck. We even tried to catch it in an empty glass of jam, but as soon as it was in the glass, the glittering stopped. That faint glitter was a biolescent kind of plankton, emitting light in order to attract fish to eat predators who would otherwise eat them, as we later learned during a presentation by one of us students.

I found myself fascinated and entranced by every single one of those experiences, and I hope there are many more dolphins to be seen, whales to be heard and glittering waves to catch in glasses of jam.