Lights and Squeaks
Mon 11 Aug 2008 17:42
Course: South southeast 4 knots
Wind: Southwest, gentle breeze
Daily run: 136 miles
Just when I was thinking that the days would become dull and I'd have nothing to write about, last night the problem becomes rather not having the skill to write about it. And as I write this sentence I hear very faint high pitched squeals, I prick my ears, what is that? It has to be dolphins. I go on deck and find we are surrounded not by dolphins but a large pod of pilot whales. (I think these might also be known as Minke whales.) They are black in colour, just under half the length of Sylph, that's about 5 meters, with a distinctive melon shaped head. They look to me like they're mimicking Sylph's motion, Sylph is pitching up and down as she punches close hauled into the short sea and they are porpoising alongside her, raising their heads and punching back down into the waves with almost exactly the same periodicity and motion. They have come in close to get into the bow wave, presumably our speed of about four knots is just right for them to easily keep pace and play around the hull. I would estimate there are about 30 of them.
And last night as it was getting dark I looked aloft to check that the navigation lights were burning brightly and I saw two stars, the cloud which had been with us for the past several days was breaking up. I had not seen a star for about five weeks, it felt good to see a night sky again. And as I looked to the south east I could see a glow on the horizon, the sun had already set to the north, this must be the moon I thought, and sure enough about 15 minutes later the moon slowly descended beneath the layer of cloud that still covered most of the sky. I pondered a gibbous moon setting so soon after the sun, and concluded that at these higher latitudes you can see phenomenon occurring with the heavenly bodies unknown at lower latitudes, in this case caused by the large difference in the declination of the two, the light of the moon pointing to its bright sister to the north. About midnight I poked my head up for to scan the horizon. By this time the cloud cover had completely cleared, it was a brilliant dark, starlit night. But not entirely dark, to the north a huge monochromatic rainbow arched over the sky, beneath it a curtain of light slowly changed shape, extending out, then contracting, changing from a curtain to a hand shape with a finger pointing to the upper left. I assume I was witnessing a mild mannered display of an aurora. It certainly is a privilege to be here.
Zzzzzzz. Did somebody say something? Does that pesky rodent down the back want something? Will you keep it quiet? Squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak.