• Cal Angus


Across the room I’ve left open a window on my computer that shows a live feed of the ocean, a stretch just off the Oregon coast that is particularly busy this time of year with whale traffic. Every few minutes a white spout appears in the pixellated blue sea. There is no attendant flipper or tale, the only sign that this particular spray is anything more than a wave catching a rock is the way it moves around the screen and the excited pitch in the biologist’s voice as he tries to refocus and zoom the camera. Sometimes a gray and ruddy back does make an appearance just before the whale dives, having got the air it needed. He talks about how yesterday there was a group of transient orcas, one of three groups of killer whales commonly sighted off og Oregon. Transients feed on marine mammals, sometimes other whales, while the other two groups—the offshore orcas and the southern PNW pods—maintain diets of sharks and salmon, respectively. Perfectly divided and adapted to their food sources, it would seem there’s little competition between the three groups save for our attention and that of the little black eye of the camera, which they probably don’t want anyway, but who am I to say how much limelight a whale wants. He keeps a red buoy in the middle of the frame, both for reference, a place to rest the eyes, he says, and because it seems like the whales might be attracted to its ringing and whistles as a point of sonic interest in their wide field that they fill with their own song, a few different notes that bring them to the surface in search of variation. I’m struck by the layers of invisibility and unseenness; trapped in my basement apartment by the threat of contagion, I turn to a blue screen that promises only glimpses of the largest animals on earth, that otherwise hides them entirely from the technology of our constant attention.

Spring Whale Watch Week 2020 Day 5 (2 young whales in the bay)