Book Excerpt Part 2-Ocean Country by Liz Cunningham

Humpback whale breaching

Humpback whale breaching © 2015 Charles Costello


Ocean Country: One Woman’s Voyage From Peril to Hope in Her Quest to Save the Seas is available in independent bookstores now or at

We spent four more days like that, looking for whales, watching them on the surface, and getting into the water with them.The stormy seas passed, and the waters calmed. Humpbacks are notorious for their playful acrobatics.We saw them breach and extend their heads out of the water to have a look at us (“spyhop”), and slap the surface of the water with their flukes (“peduncle throw”). A peduncle throw can mean many things. It can mean “bug off, fella,” if a female is tired of a male’s advances. Or a male that has established himself as a female’s “escort” might use it to discourage another male’s advances.
“Sometimes the calves,” Gene told us,“when they get playful, will get a little wound up and wander off and get a little bit too far from mom. They can get separated quite quickly and then mom will fire off a peduncle throw like,‘Hey, Junior! Get back here!’ ”
Once when we were in the water with a mother and calf, the mother rose vertically in the water to breathe. Straight ahead of us, forty-five feet of whale vertical beneath the sur- face. A gentle, living, breathing creature over four stories tall.
And well, I haven’t told you about all of us in the tender. The gear stowed at the center of the boat included small fins and masks and wet suits a third the size of ours. Gene’s partner, Cloe, had come with her daughter, Lucaya, who was six years old. And Dave, a friend of Gene’s since high school, was there with his wife, Suzanne, and their daughter, Eva.
There was a contagious mirth that we couldn’t have replicated without our younger boat-mates.When the humpbacks were “pec slapping,” slapping their pectoral fins on the surface to signal to each other, Lucaya and Eva leaned over the railing and squealed, “The whales are waving! The whales are waving!” (They were right.The whales were waving.)
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