Beach living usually involves churning sand and foaming waves, soft sounds of laughter muted by the ocean winds, shells and sunrises, cold beers and hot, good reads under canopies, sweat-cooled skin that smells of coconuts. Simple acts of swimming and walking, watching and enjoying. Oftentimes, however, events snap you out of your walking Zen and remind you just how wild this place really is. Recently, several instances of happenstance did just that to me.
We were walking on the pier with friends seeing what the local fishermen/women were pulling in out of the depths. Young men were wave boarding on the north side of the beach close to the pier. Kinda like skate boarding but they pop up the waves, skimming flat boards along the surf out into the ocean and pop, pop, pop up the waves, curling around just like skateboards on concrete curls. Fascinating. And not only to me. As we were watching from high above an 8 foot shark - sand or bull - got within mere feet of these boys before the lifeguards blew whistles and closed the beach. Right behind the shark cruised a massive southern stingray, easily 4 feet wide. They circled around for some time before disappearing into the gloom.
The most wonderful blessing of ALL came the next day. A completely mind-blowing split second in time. A happenstance. A stroke of luck. A looking in the right place at the right time thing. A friend and I were sitting on the beach, reading. Being quiet. Just us. The weather was blustery and partly cloudy. We couldn't put up the canopy for the winds, which were all wild and willy-nilly. I was reading the latest from a local author titled "Cape Fear Murders," a piece of fiction by an author wanting to be like Janet Evanovitch. The ocean was the color of bronze, and I found myself fascinated by the waves which came ashore crossing each other from different directions, creating these swirling eddys of foam and ripples as they washed high ashore. It was so pretty, mesmerizing, zen, meditative. The waves were coming in from the southwest, basically, and were huge, massive things. Swimming was impossible. Shorebirds were feasting in the foam and pelicans and terns were struggling in the winds. I found it impossible to read because the sight before me was more interesting. I've got to set this up for you just right because the sighting was very short. But important. Life-changing? Maybe. Likely. Anyway, to the thing. I was just sitting and staring and suddenly a whale breached the surface. Seriously. It jumped up in my direction, like heading toward me. It was right beyond the point where the waves break - very close. I made some noise and pointed out toward the ocean. My friend was like, "What?! What?!" I couldn't speak, I was so stunned. Her eyes followed my pointing finger and a few seconds later we saw it's tail fluke flipping up. My first thought before seeing the tail fluke was that it was a manta ray because of the coloration and lack of dorsal fin, except that it was huge, massive, thick. The tail fluke cemented the fact that we saw a friggin' whale off the coast of North Carolina. My friend had her smart phone and did some research. We determined that it must have been a right whale, although their migration is usually December-March. Still, whales don't read so they can traverse that path whenever they damn well please.
I saw a whale. A. Whale. To this day I am dumbfounded. So, that's the best news, the best time, an event that I can still "feel," if you know what I mean. Oh, and immediately after the whale breached the surface I looked around and no one else had seen it. People were playing in the sand, walking the shore, the lifeguard was bored, sunbathers and book readers and shark-teeth finders - not one had noticed the whale. How many whales have breached while I had my nose pointed toward the sand looking for fossils? What a sobering thought.
This morning I just happened to wake early and decided to go take sunrise photos. The sunrise was pretty, and I did get some photos. However, walking south to check on the two turtle nests just down the beach I spied these little tracks. Lots of these little tracks. They look just like the baby turtle track images on my Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project t-shirt. I flagged down the sea turtle patrol to ask, but he said they weren't baby turtle tracks. I'm not sure what they are. Any idea? That's my footprint lower left for scale. Beach tracks fascinate me. Foxes, cats, crabs, birds and now these. How fun is this?