It’s been an on/off winter for seeing whales. The weather has been indifferent and the sea has often been choppy with rain obscuring the view but it is not as bad as last year when storm after storm raced in from the Atlantic dispersing the sprats the whales feed on and ensuring they stayed safely offshore. I haven’t been watching much anyway and, except for some lucky occasions, you have to actively watch. There have only been a handful of sightings reported for December in Co.Waterford and sightings in Cork are down too.
Today I decided to head down the coast to see if I could spot anything but before I got into the car I had a look at the sea through the binoculars and straight away I saw a blow, a whale on my own door step, or just about. At first I thought it was a Humpback and galloped excitedly across the fields and ditches getting muddied and barbed before I got to the nearest cliff. The gulls were wheeling and crying above their rocky island homes and out to sea the gannets spun and ripples and eddies told of life under the surface.
After twenty minutes or so of freezing in place I spotted another blow, definitely a Fin Whale blow (tall and thin rather than low and bushy like a Humpbacks). A couple of blows more and it was gone before I could even figure if I was looking at one or two animals(a Humpback companion perhaps?) and the light began to go while the chill had settled deep in my bones and my fingernails were like ice chips.
Still there is something I like about this time of the day, a time which the artist Mondrian said lent itself to the ‘unweaving of the soul’, when the light begins to fade and what is real loses its form and a door opens between here and there. It is a feeling that is heightened when looking out to sea. As I looked to the west beyond Dungarvan the clouds blurred Helvick Head and erased the lighthouse at Mine Head completely but to the south a sliver of orange light between the low grey cloud and the chill sea danced gold on the horizon and even in its fading spoke of the promise of the brighter days to come.