Sperm Whales off the Coast of New Zealand


I thought about my state of suspension between two worlds when I went out in a rubber Zodiac boat to watch sperm whales off the coast of New Zealand. The whale would rest on the surface for a while, then breathe deeply a few times, his exhalations creating a spectacular spout, before lifting his tail flukes high above the water and plunging a mile deep to feed on squid. Our guide would mark the spot, go hunt more whales, and return forty-five minutes later to let us watch the original sperm whale surface for a gigantic gulp of fresh air.

To the whale, most of my daily surroundings-mountains, cities, highways-exist in an "invisible" world, for its eyes can only take in sights level with the waterline. The whale has its own lively, congested habitat of marine plants and sea creatures. Yet unless it surfaces for oxygen once an hour or so, it dies. Though it knows little about the world above the sea, it needs vital contact with it simply to survive. Spiritually, I sometimes feel like that whale, coming up for air at regular intervals to stay alive, then disappearing into a much more familiar environment in the cold and dark below.

Yancey, Philip. Rumours of Another World". Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2003, p. 187-188.

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