Day 146: Wellington to Kaikoura, S. Island
'Bummer!' says Snow, as we rise and fall on the heaving swell. 'That'll be another fifty minutes.'
Evidently whales keep regular appearance times. And they have names. Snow thinks that was Henry's tail we saw disappear, but he assures us that Hook, Scar and Knuckles won't be far away. Another message on the radio and he flings us into a 180° turn. 'Time is the game!' shouts Snow, scudding over the waves, but I don't think anyone hears him.
We are lucky. A fourteen foot male lies like a long rock, two-thirds of his body submerged, blowing a spout of water languidly into the air. 'Cleaning out his system,' says Snow. He takes us as close as he's permitted - about forty yards - and points out scars on the whale's back, just below the dorsal, probably from underwater battles. From the spout he can tell when the whale will dive.
That is the most impressive moment of all. The tail fin flicks up, seems to poise motionless above the water before disappearing with extraordinary smoothness and economy of movement, leaving behind a circle of absolutely clear water, an imprint no bigger than a drain cover. 'Sweet!' says Snow, approvingly.
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