You know the moment you said without thinking much ‘sure let’s do it’ you really do not mean it. Unfortunately you said it, now you have to stick with your own words. When my partner suggested a ‘whale watching trip’ these are the words I used with an excitement. I am weak to refuse anything goes under the category of ‘I have never done that, I got to try’.
We were headed to Newport, to see whales, and I had no idea what I was going to experience. Newport is located on the central Oregon coast, 114 miles away from Portland. I am a land person. Even though I spent 30 years by the sea, my relationship with water pretty much was ‘enjoying looking at it’ style. I prefer solid ground. I had a lot of warm layers and my camera, I was ready to go. When you are not in the land forget about tripod, it is useless against the wind on a rocking boat. Actually I remember many times trying to take wild windy ocean photos with a tripod, then lost the battle of holding the tripod still. Next thing I was just focusing on holding myself firmly while taking photos.
What do I know about whales? Not much. Have I ever watch whales on a discovery channel even? I did not think so. I know they are big. They come in different shapes and sizes I guess. They migrate between places time to time. I also learned that marine mammalogists estimate about 18,000 whales pass by Oregon coast between mid-December and mid-January, as they head south from the Arctic to the Baja lagoons of Mexico.
Many times when we travelled Oregon Coast and we stopped at a park ( just central coast has 38 parks ) to take picture of Pacific ocean, Rob claimed he saw a whale. How do you spot a whale in the middle of an ocean? I have never seen one. I was little suspicious of his claims. Next thing I bought was a binocular. When I was on the beach I took photos of sea animals, sea lions, crabs, birds such as seagulls, pelicans, sandpipers, sanderlings and more. Even looking at Pacific with a binocular, whales did not appear to pass in front of me. How come I do not see them? They have to be out there somewhere. I guess I have to do whale watching in order to see own my eyes.
We arrived Newport. It was sunny day with crystal clear blue sky. The white boat in the harbor was shimmering under bright sun. I thought the boat was quite large. What a perfect day it was for whale watching. I immediately went to the upper deck. If I was going to see a whale, I better be up and I had to have a clear view of it. Everyone include me had a camera in their hands, with smile on faces, listening to captan’s information about how we would tell if we saw a whale. They use clock navigation. Direction is directed like the numbers of a clock. 12 o’clock is straight in front of the boat. I prepared my zoom lens, adjusted my fast shutter speed. I zipped up my raincoat, prepare myself for the wind. When you are on deep dark blue water no matter how sunny it is, it will be chilly. While my eyes fixed on the ocean, captain came to the deck and said the deck was overcrowded! It was only 8 people were allowed on upper deck. Then we started to move. At first it was a little windy. No whales, but I saw many sea lions chasing the boat. I took many photos of the Yaquina Bay Bridge while we were passing underneath. This 74 years old bridge was glittering under the morning sun. It was designed by Conde Balcom McCullough. It is an architectural beauty that the main span is flanked by identical 350 ft (107 m) steel arches.
I heard the whales would breath every ten to twenty seconds about five or six times, then dive for 3-5 minutes before coming up to start the breathing cycle again. They say Gray Whales are the easiest to spot. I gazed at the ocean watch for a puff of white. Why have I not seen any spy hopping, breaching, or any various forms of splashing with their flukes?
I realized the boat started to rock like crazy as soon as we passed by the breakwater. We crossed the bar, the end of the bay. Suddenly I was the only one on the upper deck. I became one with the rails. Soon my knuckles turned white. Can I change my idea about the boat’s size? The boat was shrinking. Someone yelled 9 o’clock! There on my left I saw a faded fluke finally. I zoomed towards that area. Blue splashes, more splashes, then the spectacular whale! My heart was pounding with joy. Yes, the whales were out there. Not only one, there were four of them. I was frantically using my fast shutter speed. Hoping one would come out clearly. Then I remembered to look at my LCD screen, seeing a lot of blurry waves. The boat was shaking so hard that, it was hard to stay steady. I felt uneasy to be on a size of a matchstick boat on the ocean. I took a deep breath. Then I decided to go downstairs. I carefully removed my fingers from cold iron hand rail. I bet hand rail will miss my warm fingers for a long time. They were best buddies for a while.
I managed to get a few good photos of a gray whale’s tail. I was all happy. Whales disappeared over the horizon. I wanted to chat with the captain. Was that unusual to see four whales in one trip? He confirmed that was the first time in his life. I wanted to take panoramic photos of Newport fisherman town. I put my wide angle lens, looked at houses scatted around tall green trees. Then I felt a sharp pain on thumb of my right hand. A small thirsty bee stung me. In pain I tried to get rid of it, but that was the hand was holding camera. I do not know how but I managed the kill the bee with my left hand. From the pain I even screamed. I mean I went countless hiking trips. Not even once I got stung. Now in the ocean, I got stung by a bee? How fair is that? Within minutes my hand swell like red balloon. Captain thought I was the lucky one in this trip and gave me a band aid. Are you kidding me? What kind of luck is that I will remember the bee the rest of my life, the tiny earthy creature instead of gorgeous large whales? Needless to say I am allergic to bee sting.
Written by Nur Karlıca Roy
For more information on Newport’s attractions please visit websites:
http://www.elizabethstreetinn.com/area-links.html – Room rates start from $169
http://www.whalernewport.com – Room rates start from $89
http://www.comfortinn.com/hotel-newport-oregon-OR171 – Room rates start from $69
http://www.wavesofnewport.com – Room rates start from $99
http://www.newportbaymotel.com – Room rates start from $60
Whale Watching Tours:
Usually whale watching trips are 1 to 2 hours long and price changes per person $25 – 40$.
Ripley’s Believe it or Not – http://www.marinersquare.com/ripleys/
Slideshow of the tour here: