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Gone to Sea!

Before I get to my post on whales and the Farallones Islands, I wanted to add a short note to my last entry, on the topic of contesting bad and sad history. I finally finished the 500-page “People’s History of the Civil War” by David Williams. Great book! Compelling stories unlike anything you’ve ever read if you’ve ever read much on the Civil War, which I did as a kid and teen. He has chapters on the role of women in resisting war north and south, the slave revolt and the North’s dependence on black troops to win the war, the Indian wars and genocide which was really amped up during the war by both sides, but especially federal troops. Turns out Lincoln was perfectly aware of the violence and theft being perpetrated against many tribes (reports from local Indian agents were sent to him) but he preferred to ignore it and even signed off on a mass execution in Minnesota against Indians who had acted in the face of starvation and blatant theft. It’s another heartbreaking set of stories, but fantastically told and documented by Williams. His accounts of life in the South (he has family from Early County, Georgia, and draws heavily on some local newspaper archives) show how widespread the class divisions were, and how the non-slaveholding, usually landless and poor whites were often the most pro-Union and least inclined to fight the “rich man’s war” on behalf of the southern slaveocracy. This book is a vital antidote to the clichéd ideas of south vs. north, red vs. blue, and sheds an important class light on the white supremacy which dominated the antebellum south and reasserted itself with the full support of northern politicians and industrialists in the post-Reconstruction, Jim Crow era.

On Sunday I joined an Oceanic Society tour with a bunch of friends, and we cruised all the way beyond the Farallones Islands, 20-some miles due west of the Golden Gate, which meant a bonafide ocean ride! I was pretty worried heading over in the morning that I’d be seasick for 8 hours and not be able to enjoy it. But I was spared that fate, and overall it was a spectacular day! Here’s a sequence of photos to show some of the highlights, which included the mysterious and alluring Farallones Islands themselves, a major breeding ground for pinnipeds and birds, then about 6-7 miles northwest of the Farallones we came upon a couple of blue whales first, then some humpback whales, maybe 4 or 5 different ones, which we happily chased back and forth across the sea.

We're more than halfway there but so far the Farallones still look a lot like they always do from SF on a clear day!

Approaching the Farallones from the east, they look larger, but much the same as they do from San Francisco on a clear day.

From the northeast the Farallones look mighty mysterious!

From the northeast the Farallones look mighty mysterious!

Winter sunshine silhouettes the Farallones, looking due south.

Winter sunshine silhouettes the Farallones, looking due south.

Historic structures used by oceanographers at Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

Historic structures used by oceanographers at Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

Seals and sea lions bask in winter sun on west side of Farallones.

Seals and sea lions bask in winter sun on west side of Farallones.

Same shot, closer up.

Same shot, closer up.

Thar she blows! Blue whale, straight ahead!

Thar she blows! Blue whale, straight ahead!

Blue whale from side.

Blue whale from side.

Thar they blow! Two humpbacks and a rainbow spray from their exhale!

Thar they blow! Two humpbacks and a rainbow spray from their exhale!

A humpback curves out of the sea.

A humpback curves out of the sea.

Humpback with Farallones in distant southeast (upper left).

Humpback with Farallones in distant southeast (upper left).

Humpback shows fluke from side.

Humpback shows fluke from side.

Humpback dives.

Humpback dives.

Humpback fluke, my best shot!

Humpback fluke, my best shot!

On the way back, we loop just south of the Farallones.

On the way back, we loop just south of the Farallones.

Passing Point Bonita lighthouse on the way into the Golden Gate.

Passing Point Bonita lighthouse on the way into the Golden Gate.

Back in the bay!

Back in the bay!

We got incredibly lucky. Not every whalewatching boat ride gets so close to blue and humpback whales, and I got lucky with taking a few photos too… I missed one shot because I was just enjoying the experience, when two blue whales were right in front of us, cruising along. It was the third time we’d managed to catch up to them, and as soon as they went below I pulled out the camera and got those two shots above of the blue… anyway, great weather, relatively calm seas, and a good day in oceanic nature!

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One Response to “Gone to Sea!”

  1. 1
    Chris Clarke:

    You’re making me homesick, man.

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