I put my basic art skills to use in re-creating this spectacle on paper...I could have kicked myself for leaving my camera up on the beach, a slippery 300 yards away!… Sometimes we must simply cherish a moment, with our full presence, no camera in hand...

 

 

Tucked into an inside atoll corner one morning, I felt like watching the open sea crash onto the reef so I took the dinghy in and anchored it on the lagoon side of the reef, then wandered the 500 yards across the island to where the reef dropped off into the open Pacific…

The atolls are covered in interesting flora, all most incredibly equipped in their own ways, to survive in the harsh atoll environment. Waxy leaves retain precious moisture or reflective hairs help cut the intense tropical sun. In some places, plants pushed right out of the coral rocks. For land-dwelling species, atoll life doesn’t look easy. But the coconut trees sure don’t seem bothered…

 

I twisted a young coconut off a short tree and sat in the shade for a drink…

 

Carrying on to the outlying reef, I started north, scanning the washed up coral for shells or sea treasures. Oh, what I would have done for that plastic to oil machine now! There was far more plastic than shells or treasures—flip flops, tooth brushes, oil containers, soap bottles, broken buckets, water bottles, soda bottles, fish nets, bits of degrading nylon rope, and even a Coke bottle that read, “Fabrique en Chile”.  Our oceans are now giant bodies of plastic soup…

What will happen with all this plastic...?

 

To distract myself from the depressing array of degrading plastic flotsam, I dropped my bag and wandered out onto the reef. The sea was relatively calm, so I made my way out towards the edge to see what sort of creatures were living there. Between the washing of the waves, the living reef pulsed with life and color. I was careful to avoid stepping on live coral and pencil urchins, while feasting my eyes on the wild purples, spotty lime greens and luscious teals of the giant clams. Small eels slithered between the cracks and schools of parrotfish munched coral in the deeper washes of the reef.

 

Suddenly, something caught my eye out to sea. I turned to see a massive humpback whale, mid-breach, only 50 yards off the reef to the south of where I stood. Before I could calculate what I’d just witnessed, there he went again! More than ¾ of his (or her) body airborne, in the most amazing display of whale excitement I had ever seen. Wait, there were more…Another adult whale broke the surface for a breath right along side a baby whale. Surely it was a family, heading slowly north with their new baby!! What luck! The breacher kept at it and all three whales crossed right in front of where I stood, not more than 100 feet from the reef! The splash of his breach sent waves rippling over the reef!! He must have leapt 10 times in less than a ¼ mile—he even made some spiraling leaps with pectoral fins splayed and the stripes of his expanding white underbelly giggling through the air. Who knows why he was so excited, but as far as I could tell, it was a bitchen day to be a whale on that clear, calm day in the South Pacific. His display was electric, and I hopped and cheered for them, arms flailing and tears in my eyes as I bid them safe voyaging…

 

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