Sunday, January 17, 2010
4926 Miles Traveled
Jan 17, 2010
Mostly clear with low clouds over the mountains
I feel like this day was so intense that writing about it can’t convey the exhilaration. It was an early morning so we could find parking on the beach near some resorts on the northwestern side of the island. We strapped on our snorkel gear and headed out, swimming way past the rocks and reef into more open water where only sea grass lined the bottom. When you dove down, it was easy to hear that the whales were practically screaming their songs about half a mile out. On our way back to shore, a huge snow-flake patterned sting ray swam right beneath us. The diversity of fish species we saw today was much greater than those we saw the first day, including angelfish, yellow tangs, needle fish, several kinds of butterfly fish and parrot fish, and a ton of these little striped guys that would swim right up to you. I imagine that the wildlife is either more used to humans because of the number of snorkelers, but I also know that at some resorts, it is common practice to feed the fish.
The waves were getting larger as it got closer to noon, and I was being tossed around quite a bit. I caught a wave onto shore and spread out on my towel to journal in more detail about the things I saw. Suddenly, I heard a scream from the water. A woman had been tossed by a wave and was bleeding profusely. Somebody called an ambulance. The woman was moaning in pain, and it looked as if she had dislocated or broken her jaw and injured her neck. I didn’t want to get in the way, but nobody seemed to know what to do. There was no lifeguard on duty, but I ran up to the resort and flagged down an employee, who promptly sent the resort’s emergency team to put her on a stretcher and get her out of the water. Nobody wanted to move her, so she was still lying partially in the water.
Some of our group members had formed a barrier to break the waves before they hit her and stayed there throughout the ordeal. When the EMTs finally arrived about ten minutes later, the tide had come farther in and the huge waves were crashing on our human barrier quite heavily. The woman was strapped down to the stretcher, but before they moved her, one final wave came and washed all the way over despite everyone’s best efforts. I could not imagine the terror of being strapped down with a serious head injury with water covering your face, unable to move. As she was taken away, I heard her say, “Don’t let them see me like this.” It seemed an odd thing to say in the situation. We were all a little bit shaken by the event, and it really made me angry that her injury was seen as an entertaining attraction. I saw an older woman bring what looked to be grandchildren over to watch. Everyone either gawked, or was completely unaware of what had happened.
Anyways, I covered myself up and took a little nap on the beach. We spent from 9:30-1:30 on the beach, and many people walked away with nasty burns. Many of the burned people swear that the burn will turn into a tan, but I just don’t think that third degree burns will ever be golden brown. We’re going to be taking a high-elevation hike tomorrow (10,000 ft) and we’ve all been warned to protect our skin to prevent further “frying.”
We left the beach and boarded a whale-watching boat. There were pretty high expectations for the whale-watching trip, but what we say completely exceeded anything we could have imagined. We saw many mother-calf pairs, and one newborn made his way over to our boat (the captain, by law had to stop the engine and wait), and began to breach about 3 meters from us! It was absolutely amazing. The babies are born at 15-20 ft, and weigh about half a ton. For the first few months of their life, they gain one hundred pounds a day while feeding on three hundred gallons of milk. And this “baby” certainly looked like he had been feeding. We also saw males fighting over the ladies up-close, heard the whale sounds, and saw uncountable numbers of exhalations (blows). Becky got absolutely amazing pictures of all of it, but I have three posted above that I liked.
Now we’re back at the condos. The girls’ condo is cooking tonight, and we’re having chicken-tortilla casserole with corn bread and apple dumplings for dessert. I am so impressed by all the food we’ve had, and hopefully tonight will be just as good. Our condo cut up a pineapple as an hors d’ oeuvres before dinner, and then early bedtime so we can be in the car by 6:30 am tomorrow morning to climb the mountain!