Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Whale of a Tale

If you haven't seen it in the news, let me just tell you up front: humpback whales have been spotted off the shores of Manhattan. This is highly unusual - unprecedented in my years of paddling these waters, and not something in memory of anyone I know.

Sure, whales have previously been spotted in the lower harbor, off the Rockaways and Sandy Hook. However, these places are practically the final gateway to the open ocean. Past them, only the true seafaring ships go. So, to have whales so close, first sighted at the Statue of Liberty and eventually, as far north as the George Washington Bridge, is astounding. It's the kind of thing that most people would have said is unlikely at best. It's the kind of thing one might have said as a joke.

"Hey," says the Cowgirl," let's go looking for whales by Chelsea Piers, har har har.".

Well, it's a reality now.

The first day, Thursday, a week before Thanksgiving, they were spotted near the Statue of Liberty. As it happens, I've been working some daytime hours at New York Kayak Company, located at Pier 40 in Manhattan (Houston Street, basically), about four miles north of the Statue. Me and the boss-man talked about it, amazed. Too bad we weren't out there to see the whales ourselves.

Then, when I got home, I saw footage posted online of a whale surfacing next to the Holland Tunnel blower on the Manhattan side. That's the southwest corner of Pier 40's little embayment. Pier 40 is in the background. The shop where I work is directly behind a whale surfacing in the Hudson River.

Dang it, whale, you're goading me !

I'd already made a playdate that weekend to paddle on the ocean near Jones Beach. You know, the ocean, where whales go. I figured they'd been in a few days and would have left.

But, no. Oh no, no no no. Sunday and Monday, very windy days, they were still being sighted. NY Media Boat has great pictures, and Gotham Whale has been at the NYC whale game for quite a while.

So I continue to look out the window at New York Kayak Company, walking along the waterfront when gale-force winds aren't blowing, looking for that whale. Or whales. Paddling acquaintance Frogma informs me that it's two whales, at one point photographed side by side.

Oy, whales in love. Teenagers. Apparently the younger whales don't have to migrate, and can chase fish all they want - even if it means getting lost near the Holland Tunnel, like so many of the more ape-like mammals.

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