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Serenading the belugas

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The belugas roaming the water near Churchill didn't take kindly to Blondie, but Patsy Cline and Paul McCartney were more up their alley.

PHOTO BY ROSEANNA SCHICK Enlarge Image

The belugas roaming the water near Churchill didn't take kindly to Blondie, but Patsy Cline and Paul McCartney were more up their alley. Photo Store

The sun beat down on my bright yellow kayak as gentle waves rocked the hull back and forth.
Directly behind me was the port of Churchill, one of the most diverse and interesting places I’ve ever visited. Directly in front of me was a pod of beluga whales, magnificent glistening creatures gliding gracefully in and out of the water.

I’d spent the past half-hour trying to manoeuvre my watercraft near enough to get a good glimpse, but they were awesome at eluding me. Just when I’d get relatively close, they’d dart off in the opposite direction, leaving little hope I’d ever get to see them. Until, all of a sudden, they turned and headed in my exact direction. Dozens of them, coming straight at me!  

My first instinct was to turn around and paddle the hell out of there. After all, they could so easily flip my tippy little kayak if they really wanted to. Even though our guide Lindsay from Sea North Tours told us they were docile, I couldn’t be certain. What if she was wrong? What if they weren’t gentle? What if they were angry and wanted to take it out on an innocent human who happened to be in the wrong place at the right time?

Thoughts of doom raced through my mind as my pulse quickened. Anxiety welled up in my chest as I took a deep breath, pointed myself in their direction, and paddled at full speed, straight towards them! I had to go for it. I had to trust.

Lindsay told us they like movement, so I kept my kayak moving. Once they notice you, she said, they’re curious and will come over to check you out. Even though I’m partially terrified, I so desperately want them to notice me. And oh boy, do they ever.

A few seconds later, I’m surrounded by belugas — some underneath, some in front, some behind, some alongside just below the surface. They are so close I could touch them. My adrenaline is racing full-force as I work up the nerve to reach out my hand. But before I have the chance to let go of my paddle, poof — they’re gone. Just like that.

That first encounter happened so quickly, leaving me wanting more. I spent the next few hours chasing them down, moving my kayak around, and trying to lure them back. It was no longer scary. Now, it was absolutely exhilarating.  

Lindsay also told us they like music, so sing to them. I chose The Tide Is High by Blondie, a song I sang while swimming with dolphins once in Australia. Dolphins loved that song, but belugas, not so much. However, I was pleased to discover they liked Crazy by Patsy Cline, and also seemed to enjoy Paul McCartney’s Mull Of Kintyre. Singing brought them over to my kayak again and again. As they got more comfortable and spent more time with me, I learned to trust them.

Eventually I was able to reach out and touch them. Occasionally they’d bump up against the bottom, raising me up in the air. Sometimes they’d swim directly underneath, flipping themselves upside-down and gazing up at me. I swear they even smiled.

Each time they approached, I felt more at ease. Until eventually they must have tired of me and my gazillion songs, and swam away from my little yellow kayak for good, leaving behind a lingering wake and wonderful memories I’ll always treasure.
Just like that.  

RoseAnna Schick is an avid traveller and music lover who seeks inspiration wherever she goes. Email her at rascreative@yahoo.ca

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