Sunday, March 22, 2009
Over the hump
A humpbacked whale has wandered into the vicinity of Hong Kong island (no whale in its right mind would choose to live here: for one thing there's practically nothing left to eat in Hong Kong waters) and is currently hanging out at Cape D'Aguilar. This morning, I was steering a crew that had fallen behind the other OC6 we were racing. As we came back around Beaufort Island and into Stanley Bay, in completely calm conditions, we saw the whale was right in front of us. Suddenly winning didn't seem so important anymore: we watched the whale surface lazily, rolling in the water, and then jump fully into the air no more than 50 metres away as we gasped like overawed children at a fireworks display.
The government isn't stopping anyone from coming in to the area, even though any noise louder than 160 decibels may damage the whale's hearing and cause further disorientation. I felt conscious enough of this in our little boat but all around us speedboats and police launches sent rumbles through the water that we could feel. The channel behind Beaufort Island and Po Toi is one of the busiest in the world; at night I can hear the mournful sounds of ships' horns, the noise and traffic is constant, and it's got to be a matter of concern whether the whale can actually get out of there to continue its migratory journey.
Our paddle home was considerably more calm; I got everyone to paddle with their eyes closed for four sets, and talked about being in harmony with the boat and each other as we paddle. The timing issues we'd been having seemed to iron themselves out and we ended up racing home, everyone paddling hard. It sounds cheesy but I think we all felt we'd experienced something special together and it seemed to make a difference.
Photo © REUTERS/Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department