This place was so… out-of-this-world—250 miles off shore, another planet—but just a quick flight and overnight motor to volcanic rocks strung off our familiar Channel Islands. So young, San Benedicto, that erosive channels are deep and soft; not weathered yet by time or riddled by roots. This place felt raw, and wild. The Boiler is a column of igneous rock spewed from the earth’s crust; not colorful, not speckled with reef fish or anemones, but magnificent in its simplicity.
Jump off the Nautilus into the quiet blue space where so often I find connection to my breath’s sound alone. My ears perk at the clicks of dolphin. In this moment I draw upon experience and wait for them to appear. In tandem, ascending for a breath above the sea, they are grace in movement and style.
Dan signals “listen” with hand-cupped ear—the voice of a whale reverberates around me, through me. In this moment, I cannot recall experience to guide me. This is not graceful, this is guttural. This is wild. These aren’t happy clicks or playful whistles. I hear elephants under the sea! My eyes dim, blue blanket wrapping everything in, shutting everything else out. Focus on humpbacks trumpeting, rumbling vibrations through my body in waves.
Out from under blue covers, the silhouette of a giant manta takes shape, wing beats adding base to the trumpets. More manta fly above, not like birds but like space ships and again I have no experience to tell my senses what to expect or how to interpret this moment. I’m dwarfed in size and feel inadequate with the bulk of a self-contained under-water breathing apparatus, lungs attempting to balance lead. Wings float downward as if to embrace me, my bubbles travel across a white belly. His pelvis tilts to catch my breath between his claspers and a wiggle-shake tells me I’ve tickled this creature with tiny bubbles.
To the tune of whales moaning, sighing, crying, grunting—at once a trumpet and then a violin—I float with mantas swirling, stirring my insides, blocking out the sun—blocking out everything else, in this moment. The experience is eerie, the Boiler feels haunted, the sounds are spooky. Jet black manta, and whales, somewhere singing the most complex song in the kingdom.