There are fewer than 450 North Atlantic right whales living today. Nearly 100 of them are feeding off the tip of Cape Cod this week, and the children and I went out looking for them. Off Race Point we joined scores of people gazing out at the twin spouts and rolling flukes of half a dozen whales about half a mile from shore. over at Herring Cove in the lee of the dunes we saw a dozen or so more, lifting their tails and gorging on the zooplankton that has brought them to this place in (modern) record numbers.
I had never seen a right whale before today. I have watched finbacks and minkes, humpbacks and pilotfish, and once in Puget Sound saw a pod of orca swimming in procession past San Juan Island and another time a beluga whale in the Cape Cod Canal. Never before had I seen this rare and wonderful giant, let alone nearly a score of them, and right off the beach. I could have watched them all afternoon, and wityh binoclears and telescope they seemed very close indeed.
My children were very interested in the whales, but also in shells and sand and the feel of the sun on their bare pink toes. There were gannets and mergansers and sandpipers darting, and all along the horizon a backdrop of whales to crown a magical Earth Day. If you look closely at this picture, you will see the telltale Vee of a right whale spout far beyond the children at play.