Excerpts from the strange and wonderful story of the greatest penguin that has ever lived.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Migrating North With Giants


A cool breeze filled with sea spray blew through the light fog as Donna raced above the water (well, of course she is alive!). She held on tightly to the back of a massive sperm whale as it breached through an ocean swell and spray rained down all around her. Donna had been picked up by the whale almost as soon as she had been separated from Haole. She had even gotten some sleep during the early part of the morning, after the storm had died down.
Haole lay next to her on the whale’s back. He was still unconscious and he looked pale from his all night ordeal, that is, if penguins can look pale. Anyway, he didn’t look good and Donna would glance over at him periodically with a deep concern as they raced through the sea.
Apparently, the sperm whales had spent the rest of the night looking for Haole and, in fact, had only found him as they were just about to give up. Luckily, they had come upon him quite by accident as one of them was surfacing to get air.
Haole moaned, moving his head side to side in a dreamlike state, and Donna bent over him to see if he was okay. He twitched as if he were dreaming something that felt utterly real and then he shook himself awake, opening his eyes and looking straight up at Donna. He blinked in disbelief for a second, trying to figure out where he was.
“Are we dead?” he asked innocently, looking to the side at the wisps of fog blowing by.
Donna laughed. “No, silly. We looked for you all night,” she said.
Haole shook himself again as if he didn’t quite believe it. “Who is we?” he asked.
“Me and the whales, of course,” Donna looked at him with concern. The previous night had been quite an ordeal for them both. “Look,” she said, and gestured toward the ocean streaming by, “it’s really wonderful!”
Haole blinked a few times in thought, “Are you sure we’re not dead?” He felt his wings and his chest to make sure he was really there. “What did I hit?” he asked as he felt his head for the first time and moaned, remembering the night before.
Donna placed her flipper on his head to feel the huge lump that was there. “That’s a bad one, alright,” she smiled playfully. “That’s what my mother always says.” She felt the lump again, “You’ll be fine. You hit Bull. He’s the big one. He didn’t mean it. He was just trying to stop you from running away. They all said that you were very fast.”
Haole was pretty confused now, “Who is Bull?” he asked.
Donna looked around at the sea. “Come on,” she said, “get up and look.” She reached out and nudged Haole to his feet.
Haole pushed himself unsteadily to standing. He wobbled for a second, then got his balance but almost lost it again as he peered around him at the spectacle of what was going on. The sea all around them was frothing white. The whale they stood on had a massive, thick dorsal fin – like a small hill on his back. Haole and Donna crouched on it as they watched. The ocean all around them was filled with dorsal fins like this one, cutting through the water. There must have been twelve or fifteen whales all swimming together. Their great bodies breached out of the swells as they swam forward, creating massive splashes. It was like riding in a huge fleet of ships only much better, as these ships were jumping out of the water and sometimes diving beneath it only to reappear moments later, leaping into the air and sending sheets of spray skyward. Donna and Haole were riding the sperm whale migration up the Humboldt current and into the South Pacific, being carried like royalty of the sea.
“It’s so beautiful,” said Donna, “Bull is the big one over there.” She gestured to a massive whale surfacing in an eruption of whitewater just in front of them to their left. “He’s really nice,” she added.
Haole was overwhelmed to almost speechlessness. “I’m glad I’m riding them and not being chased by them,” he managed to mutter under his breath.

They made good time. The sperm whale armada only slowed down for a few hours each night (for they meditate, instead of sleep, just like porpoise) and then again to feed in the middle of each day. The fog lifted by the morning of the second day and the sun became progressively hotter. There was still nothing but ocean in all directions but the world seemed to get larger with the presence of so many whales. Haole didn’t know it yet, but they were already deep into the South Pacific. In fact, if on that morning of the fourth day the entire pod of sperm whales had decided to turn left and swim for two days in that direction, they all would have been in New Zeeland.
Legends are born in the strangest of ways. There seems to be a shift that occurs when people are ready for a hero or a legend to emerge, and it’s not that they start consciously looking or searching for someone extraordinary, but somehow someone arrives. Just by needing a hero, some kind of mechanism is put into place by which one is created. Now, I’m not saying that Haole wouldn’t exist or wouldn’t have been born if there hadn’t been a need for a hero, but the fact remains that the creatures of the ocean were in great need of a hero. They required someone to bring them together. The different animals and fish that lived all across the ocean had become disconnected from the grand scheme that kept them all together and made the entire ocean function to support all of its inhabitants. Some of you may find it strange that Haole becomes that hero, but I tell you that it’s completely natural for the smallest and the most isolated to be catapulted into the role of the hero during times of need. Other people that were the smallest have become heroes all through history – think of Joan of Arc or David, from David and Goliath.
Well, strange or not strange, it was at this moment that the legend truly began, because swimming out a fair distance from the migrating herd of whales that our hero was riding like Neptune, there was a group of giant green sea turtles heading north.
Now, sea turtles are slow on land – painfully slow – but in the water they can swim almost as fast as you can walk. However, they aren’t nearly as fast at swimming as the sperm whales, which can swim faster than you can ride your bike. The turtles had heard the whales coming for some distance behind them and had moved over several hundred feet to let the whales go by.
Old Torque, the lead turtle, didn’t want to get caught in the turbulent water as the whales swam by and so had given them a wide berth. He and the rest of the flotilla were taking it easy. They too were headed toward Tahiti, but they were in no hurry. The giant green sea turtles live to be more than one hundred years old and pride themselves on never being in a hurry. They are constantly going on and on about the importance of being relaxed and mellow, laid back and un-stressed.
So, as the sperm whales approached, the turtles stopped for a moment to watch them swim past. What they saw was something that Old Torque would later say was the most extraordinary sight that he had ever seen in his long eighty years of swimming the oceans. There was a penguin riding on the back of the biggest whale of the pod! A penguin! Old Torque only knew it was a penguin from conversations he had had with migrating sea birds a few times and he was in shock as he realized that this penguin must have come all the way from Antarctica!
Donna had been lying against the whale’s back as they went by and so it was only Haole that the turtle saw. He looked away and then back again several times just to make sure that he was not imagining things, and then he said the most extraordinary thing. He said, “Well, I’ve been waiting to see that sight since I was a small turtle almost eighty years ago.”
“Waiting to see what?” the younger turtle next to him asked.
The old turtle then said something that he’d never said before. “We better hurry,” he announced.
This really threw the young turtle, “But, Torque, we never hurry. Why would we? Life is so mellow,” he said.
Torque stared at the receding whales as he floated in the crystal blue water. “Something that has not happened in a long, long time is going to happen at The Gathering and we need to be there,” he answered. He bobbed in the choppy water as the whale’s bow waves began rolling past them, “That young penguin is going to change the world!”
The younger turtle didn’t understand, but Torque realized quickly that no matter how much he explained, the young turtles would have a hard time understanding. It’s something that you realize as you get older, he thought, that there really are sometimes events that change things for good. He stopped talking at that point and just began swimming north at a good pace. The younger turtle marveled that he had never seen the old wrinkled one swim so fast.

A couple of days later the turtles were stopped, talking to a migrating group of pelicans, when the story of Haole’s journey north took its first real step toward becoming a legend. All Torque did was mention it. He had been waiting to tell someone who could appreciate the news since he had seen Haole two days ago and he quickly told the pelicans how he had seen the penguin on the whale’s back.
The pelicans were immediately interested and asked all sorts of questions, but Torque didn’t really know more than what he had seen, so the conversation ended… but have you ever played a game of telephone? In a good game of telephone you send a message around a circle of people. Each person whispers the message softly into the ear of the person next to them and by the time the message gets all the way around it is so twisted up and changed that sometimes it doesn’t even resemble the original message that was sent. Besides, sea creatures are notorious gossips.
You see, over the course of the next few days, while Haole was being carried across the Tropic of Capricorn and into the tropics by the sperm whales, the pelicans stopped and told the story to several other migrating birds that they encountered, and to a group of walruses living on a rocky outcropping in the channel between New Zealand and Borneo. The thing is that the pelicans added liberally to the story, you know, adding things to make the tale more interesting. Among the things that were added in the beginning was that Haole was driving the whales (not just being given a lift, but actually commanding the whales and steering them through the sea,) and that he was the king of all the penguins. Both of these things were, of course, not true, but they made the story more interesting.
Later that same day when the story was passed on again to a flock of seagulls and again to a bunch of dolphin there were more things added, and even more added when it was passed on the following day to a school of tropical fish and to a lone shark. The story traveled as each animal told several others, who told several others, who told several others and you can see how, in this way, in a very short amount of time, the story began to spread its way across the ocean. It eventually would reach Tahiti, even before Haole and Donna were to arrive, and it would eventually spread all the way back to Scott Island, off the ice sheet and, believe it or not, to the ice sheet itself - all the way back to Haole’s home. The king of the penguins had come to the Gathering to re-establish the ancient communication between all ocean creatures and to bring great healing to the world’s oceans, heralding in a time of great prosperity and happiness…
What a whopper! All Haole had come to do was surf, but you will see, my dear reader, how strange rumors have a way of making themselves come true.

No comments:

Post a Comment