Haibun: Winter Humpbacks

For Margaret’s prompt at Toads, A Whale of A Tale, a haibun.  Humpback factoids:  Humpbacks can grow to 60 feet (18 meters) long, and they can weigh a whopping 40 tons, according to the NOAA. Their flippers can grow up to 16 feet (5 m) long, which is the largest appendage in the world. Their tails are also massive and grow up to 18 feet (5.5 m) wide. Like most whales, females are larger than males.   They feed off fish and crustaceans, especially off menhaden and brown shrimp which are plentiful for their diets and migrate every winter passing by the NC coast from December to January on their way to the Caribbean.  They often calve off the NC coast with their babies following them to their summer homes. This is also being posted on dverse for Open Link Night

Winter Humpbacks
“Let faith oust fact; let fancy oust memory; I look deep down and do believe.” Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

My ancestors came here generations ago from England. They settled on the North Carolina coast and changed from being farmers to watermen. My great-grandfather in particular was a salty old man and often said he would stop looking at women when they screwed his coffin lid down. He would leave Durham during the fall and winter and trek down to his hometown – to live in a shanty on the beach and fish. It never went out of his blood, that fishing. He would serve as a cook on fishing boats and once cooked for Teddy Roosevelt when Teddy was a middle-aged man. Pap as we called him, loved his time on the water. He loved telling me tales of the boat going out and casting their nets and hauling in the load of fish.

But my favorite tales were of the migrating humpback whales, longer than the boat, breaching up and often destroying the nets. The humpbacks migrated down from Maine and on down to the Caribbean. They often spent a month eating menhaden and brown shrimp to build up their fat layer on their way farther down south. Pap said many a day a humpback or two would breach and often lunge up out of the water. Fishing would be forgotten as the men watched these gigantic creatures swimming along side of the boat or breaching. The calves were the size of the boat.. I loved the tales. As an adult I would always go down to the coast in fall and winter and go out on one of the fishing piers, empty now that it was cold winter, and watch the whales feeding or swimming or breaching. Like my great-grandfather, I inherited that love of the ocean.
cold winter ocean –
humpbacks lunge towards the sky
singing their songs

whale off NC coast in winter


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