Published: March 2009

Blue Whales

Photographer in ocean with blue whale

Still Blue

Off the shores of Costa Rica, scientists study a stronghold of whales that once hovered near extinction.

By Ken Brower
Photograph by Flip Nicklin

In Acapulco Harbor, amid the white yachts, R.V. Pacific Storm stood out: a working boat, black hulled, a West Coast trawler in a previous life, reborn now as a research vessel. There were bigger, more opulent boats in the harbor—fortunes are invested in the white yachts of Acapulco—but this 85-foot trawler, with its grim mien and high black bow, was the ship for me. Asked to choose, from all this fleet, the vessel to carry me on a month-long cruise in pursuit of blue whales, I would not have hesitated. As Flip Nicklin and I passed our gear up the trawler's ladder and stowed it in our cabin, I felt an almost savage contentment.

Call me Ishmael, if you like, but whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I have spent too many consecutive months at the computer keyboard, in artificial light, like some sort of troglodyte, self-imprisoned, pecking out my living, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. I jumped at the assignment on Pacific Storm. As the voyage was to depart on the third of January, I made three New Year's resolutions: I would try to be an affable shipmate. I would strip all the blubber from my prose. I would refrain from making a single allusion to Herman Melville.

Did I mention we were after a white whale?

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