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       Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings, p.1
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Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings


   

  For Jim Darling, Flip Nicklin,

  and Meagan Jones:

  extraordinary people who do

  extraordinary work

  Fluke (flook) 1. A stroke of good luck

  2. A chance occurrence; an accident

  3. A barb or barbed head, as on a harpoon

  4. Either of the two horizontally flattened divisions of the tail of a whale

  PART ONE

  The Song

  An ocean without its

  unnamed monsters would be like a

  completely dreamless sleep.

  -  JOHN STEINBECK

  The scientific method is nothing

  more than a system of rules to keep us

  from lying to each other.

  -  KEN NORRIS

  CHAPTER ONE

  Big and Wet

  Next Question?

  Amy called the whale punkin.

  He was fifty feet long, wider than a city bus, and weighed eighty thousand pounds. One well-placed slap of his great tail would reduce the boat to fiberglass splinters and its occupants to red stains drifting in the blue Hawaiian waters. Amy leaned over the side of the boat and lowered the hydrophone down on the whale. "Good morning, punkin," she said.

  Nathan Quinn shook his head and tried not to upchuck from the cuteness of it, of her, while surreptitiously sneaking a look at her bottom and feeling a little sleazy about it. Science can be complex. Nate was a scientist. Amy was a scientist, too, but she looked fantastic in a pair of khaki hiking shorts, scientifically speaking.

  Below, the whale sang on, the boat vibrated with each note. The stainless rail at the bow began to buzz. Nate could feel the deeper notes resonate in his rib cage. The whale was into a section of the song they called the «green» themes, a long series of whoops that sounded like an ambulance driving through pudding. A less trained listener might have thought that the whale was rejoicing, celebrating, shouting howdy to the world to let everyone and everything know that he was alive and feeling good, but Nate was a trained listener, perhaps the most trained listener in the world, and to his expert ears the whale was saying  -  Well, he had no idea what in the hell the whale was saying, did he? That's why they were out there floating in that sapphire channel off Maui in a small speedboat, sloshing their breakfasts around at seven in the morning: No one knew why the humpbacks sang. Nate had been listening to them, observing them, photographing them, and poking them with sticks for twenty-five years, and he still had no idea why, exactly, they sang.

  "He's into his ribbits," Amy said, identifying a section of the whale's song that usually came right before the animal was about to surface. The scientific term for this noise was «ribbits» because that's what they sounded like. Science can be simple.

  Nate peeked over the side and looked at the whale that was suspended head down in the water about fifty feet below them. His flukes and pectoral fins were white and described a crystal-blue chevron in the deep blue water. So still was the great beast that he might have been floating in space, the last beacon of some long-dead space-traveling race  -  except that he was making croaky noises that would have sounded more appropriate coming out of a two-inch tree frog than the archaic remnant of a superrace. Nate smiled. He liked ribbits. The whale flicked his tail once and shot out of Nate's field of vision. "He's coming up," Nate said.

  Amy tore off her headphones and picked up the motorized Nikon with the three-hundred-millimeter lens. Nate quickly pulled up the hydrophone, allowing the wet cord to spool into a coil at his feet, then turned to the console and started the engine. Then they waited.

  There was a blast of air from behind them and they both spun around to see the column of water vapor hanging in the air, but it was far, perhaps three hundred meters behind them  -  too far away to be their whale. That was the problem with the channel between Maui and Lanai where they worked: There were so many whales that you often had a hard time distinguishing the one you were studying from the hundreds of others. The abundance of animals was a both a blessing and a curse. "That our guy?" Amy asked. All the singers were guys. As far as they knew anyway. The DNA tests had proven that.

  "Nope. "

  There was another blow to their left, this one much closer. Nate could see the white flukes or blades of his tail under the water, even from a hundred meters away. Amy hit the stop button on her watch. Nate pushed the throttle forward and they were off. Amy braced a knee against the console to steady herself, keeping the camera pointed toward the whale as the boat bounced along. He would blow three, maybe four times, then fluke and dive. Amy had to be ready when the whale dove to get a clear shot of his flukes so he could be identified and cataloged. When they were within thirty yards of the whale, Nate backed the throttle down and held them in position. The whale blew again, and they were close enough to catch some of the mist. There was none of the dead fish and massive morning-mouth smell that they would have encountered in Alaska. Humpbacks didn't feed while they were in Hawaii.

  The whale fluked and Amy fired off two quick frames with the Nikon.

  "Good boy," Amy said to the whale. She hit the lap timer button on her watch.

  Nate cut the engine and the speedboat settled into the gentle swell. He threw the hydrophone overboard, then hit the record button on the recorder that was bungee-corded to the console. Amy set the camera on the seat in front of the console, then snatched their notebook out of a waterproof pouch.

  "He's right on sixteen minutes," Amy said, checking the time and recording it in the notebook. She wrote the time and the frame numbers of the film she had just shot. Nate read her the footage number off the recorder, then the longitude and latitude from the portable GPS (global positioning system) device. She put down the notebook, and they listened. They weren't right on top of the whale as they had been before, but they could hear him singing through the recorder's speaker. Nate put on the headphones and sat back to listen.

  That's how field research was. Moments of frantic activity followed by long periods of waiting. (Nate's first ex-wife had once commented that their sex life could be described in exactly the same way, but that was after they had separated, and she was just being snotty. ) Actually, the wait here in Maui wasn't bad  -  ten, fifteen minutes at a throw. When he'd been studying right whales in the North Atlantic, Nate had sometimes waited weeks before he found a whale to study. Usually he liked to use the downtime (literally, the time the whale was down) to think about how he should've gotten a real job, one where you made real money and had weekends off, or at least gotten into a branch of the field where the results of his work were more palpable, like sinking whaling ships  -  a pirate. You know, security.

  Today Nate was actively trying not to watch Amy put on sunscreen. Amy was a snowflake in the land of the tanned. Most whale researchers spent a great deal of time outdoors, at sea. They were, for the most part, an intrepid, outdoorsy bunch who wore wind- and sunburn like battle scars, and there were few who didn't sport a semipermanent sunglasses raccoon tan and sun-bleached hair or a scaly bald spot. Amy, on the other hand, had milk-white skin and straight, short black hair so dark that the highlights appeared blue in the Hawaiian sun. She was wearing maroon lipstick, which was so wildly inappropriate and out of character for this setting that it approached the comical and made her seem like the goth geek of the Pacific, which was, in fact, one of the reasons her presence so disturbed Nate. (He reasoned: A well-formed bottom hanging in space is just a well-formed bottom, but you hook up a well-formed bottom to a whip-smart woman and apply a dash of the a
wkward and what you've got yourself is. . . well, trouble. )

  Nate did not watch her rub the SPF50 on her legs, over her ankles and feet. He did not watch her strip to her bikini top and apply the sunscreen over her chest and shoulders. (Tropical sun can fry you even through a shirt. ) Nate especially did not notice when she grabbed his hand, squirted lotion into it, then turned, indicating that he should apply it to her back, which he did  -  not noticing anything about her in the process. Professional courtesy. He was working. He was a scientist. He was listening to the song of Megaptera novaeangliae ("big wings of New England," a scientist had named the whale, thus proving that scientists drink), and he was not intrigued by her intriguing bottom because he had encountered and analyzed similar data in the past. According to Nate's analysis, research assistants with intriguing bottoms turned into wives 66. 666 percent of the time, and wives turned into ex-wives exactly 100 percent of the time  -  plus or minus 5 percent factored for post-divorce comfort sex. )

  "Want me to do you?" Amy asked, holding out her preferred sunscreen-slathering hand.

  You just don't go there, thought Nate, not even in a joke. One incorrect response to a line like that and you could lose your university position, if you had one, which Nate didn't, but still. . . You don't even think about it.

  "No thanks, this shirt has UV protection woven in," he said, thinking about what it would be like to have Amy do him.

  Amy looked suspiciously at his faded WE LIKE WHALES CONFERENCE 89 T-shirt and wiped the remaining sunscreen on her leg. " 'Kay," she said.

  "You know, I sure wish I could figure out why these guys sing," Nate said, the hummingbird of his mind having tasted all the flowers in the garden to return to that one plastic daisy that would just not give up the nectar.

  "No kidding?" Amy said, deadpan, smiling. "But if you figure it out, what would we do tomorrow?"

  "Show off," Nate said, grinning.

  "I'd be typing all day, analyzing research, matching photographs, filing song tapes  - »

  "Bringing us doughnuts," Nate added, trying to help.

  Amy continued, counting down the list on her fingers, "- picking up blank tapes, washing down the trucks and the boats, running to the photo lab  - »

  "Not so fast," Nate interrupted.

  "What, you're going to deprive me the joy of running to the photo lab while you bask in scientific glory?"

  "No, you can still go to the photo lab, but Clay hired a guy to wash the trucks and boats. "

  A delicate hand went to her forehead as she swooned, the southern belle in hiking shorts, taken with the vapors. "If I faint and fall overboard, don't let me drown. "

  "You know, Amy," Nate said as he undressed the crossbow, "I don't know how it was at Boston doing survey, but in behavior, research assistants are only supposed to bitch about the humiliating grunt work and lowly status to other research assistants. It was that way when I was doing it, it was that way going back centuries, it has always been that way. Darwin himself had someone on the Beagle to file dead birds and sort index cards. "

  "He did not. I've never read anything about that. "

  "Of course you didn't. Nobody writes about research assistants. " Nate grinned again, celebration for a small victory. He realized he wasn't working up to standards on managing this research assistant. His partner, Clay, had hired her almost two weeks ago, and by now he should have had her terrorized. Instead she was working him like a Starbucks froth slave.

  "Ten minutes," Amy said, checking the timer on her watch. "You going to shoot him?"

  "Unless you want to?" Nate notched the arrow into the crossbow. He tucked the windbreaker they used to «dress» the crossbow under the console. It was very politically incorrect to carry a weapon for shooting whales through the crowded Lahaina harbor, so they carried it inside the windbreaker, making it appear that they had a jacket on a hanger.

  Amy shook her head violently. "I'll drive the boat. "

  "You should learn to do it. "

  "I'll drive the boat," Amy said.

  "No one drives the boat. " No one but Nate drove the boat. Granted, the Constantly Baffled was only a twenty-three-foot Mako speedboat, and an agile four-year-old could pilot it on a calm day like today. Still, no one else drove the boat. It was a man thing, being inherently uncomfortable with the thought of a woman operating a boat or a television remote control.

  "Up sounds," Nate said. They had a recording of the full sixteen-minute cycle of the song now  -  all the way through twice, in fact. He stopped the recorder and pulled up the hydrophone, then started the engine.

  "There," Amy said, pointing to the white fins and flukes moving under the water. The whale blew only twenty yards off the bow. Nate buried the throttle. Amy was wrenched off her feet and just caught herself on the railing next to the wheel console as the boat shot forward. Nate pulled up on the right side of the whale, no more than ten yards away as the whale came up for the second time. He steadied the wheel with his hip, pulled up the crossbow, and fired. The bolt bounced off the whale's rubbery back, the hollow surgical steel arrowhead taking out a cookie-cutter plug of skin and blubber the size of a pencil eraser before the wide plastic tip stopped the penetration.

  The whale lifted his tail out of the water and snapped it in the air, making a sound like a giant knuckle cracking as the massive tail muscles contracted.

  "He's pissed," Nate said. "Let's go for a measurement. "

  "Now?" Amy questioned. Normally they would wait for another dive cycle. Obviously Nate thought that because of their taking the skin sample the whale might start traveling. They could lose him before getting a measurement.

  "Now. I'll shoot, you work the rangefinder. "

  Nate backed off the throttle a bit, so he would be able to catch the entire tail fluke in the camera frame when the whale dove. Amy grabbed the laser rangefinder, which looked very much like a pair of binoculars made for a cyclops. By taking a distance measurement from the animal's tail with the rangefinder and comparing the size of the tail in the frame of the picture, they could measure the relative size of the entire animal. Nate had come up with an algorithm that, so far, gave them the length of a whale with 98 percent accuracy. Just a few years ago they would've had to have been in an aircraft to measure the length of a whale.

  "Ready," Amy said.

  The whale blew and arched its back into a high hump as he readied for the dive (the reason whalers had named them humpbacks in the first place). Amy fixed the rangefinder on the whale's back; Nate trained the camera's telephoto on the same spot, and the autofocus motors made tiny adjustments with the movement of the boat.

  The whale fluked, raising its tail high in the air, and there, instead of the distinct pattern of black-and-white markings by which all humpbacks were identified, were  -  spelled out in foot-high black letters across the white  -  the words BITE ME!

  Nate hit the shutter button. Shocked, he fell into the captain's chair, pulling back the throttle as he slumped. He let the Nikon sag in his lap.

  "Holy shit!" Nate said. "Did you see that?"

  "See what? I got seventy-three feet," Amy said, pulling down the rangefinder. "Probably seventy-six from where you are. What were your frame numbers?" She was reaching for the notebook as she looked back at Nate. "Are you okay?"

  "Fine. Frame twenty-six, but I missed it," he lied. His mind was shuffling though a huge stack of index cards, searching a million article abstracts he had read to find some explanation for what he'd just seen. It couldn't possibly have been real. The film would show it. "You didn't see any unusual markings when you did the ID photo?"

  "No, did you?"

  "No, never mind. "

  "Don't sweat it, Nate. We'll get it next time he comes up," Amy said.

  "Let's go in. "

  "You don't want to try again for a measuremen
t?" To make the data sample complete, they needed an ID photo, a recording of at least a full cycle of the song, a skin sample for DNA and toxin figures, and a measurement. The morning was wasted without the measurement.

  "Let's go back to Lahaina," Nate said, staring down at the camera in his lap. "You drive. "

  CHAPTER TWO

  Maui No Ka Oi

  (Maui Is the Best)

  At first it was that old trickster Maui who cast his fishing line from his canoe and pulled the islands up from the bottom of the sea. When he was done fishing, he looked at those islands he had pulled up, and smack in the middle of the chain was one that was made up of two big volcanoes, sitting there together like the friendly, lopsided bosoms of the sea. Between them was a deep valley that Maui thought looked very much like cleavage, which he very much liked. And so, to that bumpy-bits island Maui gave his name, and its nickname became "The Cleavage Island," which it stayed until some missionaries came along and renamed it "The Valley Island" (because if there's anything missionaries do well, it's seek out and destroy fun). Then Maui landed his canoe at a calm little beach on the west coast of his new island and said to himself, "I could do with a few cocktails and some nookie. I shall go into Lahaina and get some. "

  Well, time passed and some whalers came to the island, bringing steel tools and syphilis and other wonders from the West, and before anyone knew what was happening, they, too, were thinking that they wouldn't mind a few cocktails and a measure of nookie. So rather than sail back around the Horn to Nantucket to hoist noggins of grog and the skirts of the odd Hester, Millicent, or Prudence (so fast the dear woman would think she'd fallen down a chimney and landed on a zucchini), they pulled into Lahaina, drawn by the drunken sex magic of old Maui. They didn't come to Maui for the whales, they came for the party.

  And so Lahaina became a whaling town. The irony of it was that even though the humpbacks had starting coming to birth their calves and sing their songs only a few years earlier, and in those days the Hawaiian channels were teeming with the big-winged singers, it was not for the humpbacks that the whalers came. Humpbacks, like their other rorqual brothers  -  the streamlined blue, fin, sei, minke, and Bryde's whales  -  were just too fast to catch in sailing ships and man-powered whaling boats. No, the whalers came to Lahaina to rest and recreate along their way to Japanese waters where they hunted the great sperm whale, who would literally float there like a big, dumb log while you rowed up to it and stuck a harpoon in its head. It would take the advent of steamships and the decimation of the big, floaty-fat right whales (so named because they did float when dead and therefore were the «right» whales to kill) before the hunters would turn their harpoons on the humpbacks.

  Following the whalers came the missionaries, the sugar farmers, the Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, and Portuguese who all worked the sugar plantations, and Mark Twain. Mark Twain went home. Everyone else stayed. In the meantime, King Kamehameha I united the islands through the clever application of firearms against wooden spears and moved Hawaii's capital to Lahaina. Sometime after that Amy came cruising into the Lahaina harbor at the wheel of a twenty-three-foot Mako speedboat with a tall, stunned-looking Ph. D. sprawled across the bow seat.

  The radio chirped. Amy picked it up and keyed the mike. "Go ahead, Clay. "

  "Something wrong?" Clay Demodocus was obviously in the harbor and could see them coming in. It wasn't even eight in the morning. He was probably still preparing his boat to go out.

  "I'm not sure. Nate just decided to call it a day. I'll ask him why. " To Nate she said, "Clay wants to know why. "

  "Anomalous data," Nate said.

  "Anomalous data," Amy repeated into the radio.

  There was a pause. Then Clay said, "Uh, right, understood. That stuff gets into everything. "

  The harbor at Lahaina is not large. Only a hundred or so vessels can dock behind her breakwater. Most are sizable, fifty- to seventy-foot cruisers and catamarans, boats full of sunscreen-basted tourists out on the water for anything from dinner cruises to sport fishing to snorkeling at the half-sunken crater of Molokini to, of course, whale watching. Jet-skiing, parasailing, and waterskiing were all banned from December until April, while the humpbacks were in these waters, so many of the smaller boats that would normally be used to terrorize marine life in the name of recreation were leased by whale researchers for the season. On any given winter morning down at the harbor at Lahaina, you couldn't throw a coconut without conking a Ph. D. in cetacean biology (and you stood a good chance of winging two Masters of Science working on dissertations with the rebound).

  Clay Demodocus was engaged in a bit of research liars poker with a Ph. D. and a naval officer when Amy backed the Mako into the slip they shared with three tender zodiacs from sailing yachts anchored outside the breakwater, a thirty-two-foot motor-sailor, and the Maui Whale Research Foundation's other boat (Clay's boat), the Always Confused, a brand-new twenty-two-foot Grady White Fisherman, center console. (Slips were hard to come by in Lahaina, and circumstances this season had dictated that the Maui Whale Research Foundation  -  Nate and Clay  -  perform a nautical dog pile with six other small craft every day. You do what you have to do if you want to poke whales. )

  "Shame," Clay said as Amy threw him the stern line. "Nice calm day, too. "

  "We got everything but a measurement on one singer," Amy said.

  The scientist and the naval officer on the dock behind Clay nodded as if they understood completely. Clifford Hyland, a grizzled, gray-haired whale researcher from Iowa stood next to the young, razor-creased, snowy-white-uniformed Captain L. J. Tarwater, who was there to see that Hyland spent the navy's money appropriately. Hyland looked a little embarrassed at the whole thing and wouldn't make eye contact with Amy or Nate. Money was money, and a researcher took it where he could get it, but navy money, it was so. . . so nasty.

  "Morning Amy," said Tarwater, dazzling a perfectly even, perfectly white smile. He was lean and dark and frighteningly efficient-looking. Next to him, Clay and the scientists looked as if they'd been run through the dryer with a bag of lava rock.

  "Good morning, Captain. Morning Cliff. "

  "Hey, Amy," Cliff Hyland said. "Hey, Nate. "

  Nathan Quinn shook off his confusion like a retriever who had just heard his name uttered in context with food. "What? What? Oh, hi, Cliff. What?"

  Hyland and Quinn had both been part of a group of thirteen scientists who had first come to Lahaina in the seventies ("The Killer Elite," Clay still called them, as they had all gone on to distinguish themselves as leaders in their fields). Actually, the original intention hadn't been for them to be a group, but they nevertheless became one early on when they all realized that the only way they could afford to stay on the island was if they pooled their resources and lived together. So for years thirteen of them  -  and sometimes more if they could afford assistants, wives, or girlfriends  -  lived every season in a two-bedroom house they rented in Lahaina. Hyland understood Quinn's tendency to submerge himself in his research to the point of oblivion, so he wasn't surprised that once again the rangy researcher had spaced out.

  "Anomalous data, huh?" Cliff asked, figuring that was what had sent Nate into the ozone.

  "Uh, nothing I can be sure of. I mean, actually, the recorder isn't working right. Something dragging. Probably just needs to be cleaned. "

  And everyone, including Amy, looked at Quinn for a moment as if to say, Well, you lying satchel of walrus spit, that is the weakest story I've ever heard, and you're not fooling anyone.

  "Shame," Clay said. "Nice day to miss out on the water. Maybe you can get back with the other recorder and get out again before the wind comes up. " Clay knew something was up with Nate, but he also trusted his judgment enough not to press it. Nate would tell him when he thought he should know.

  "Speaking of that," Hyland said, "we'd better get going. " He headed
down the dock toward his own boat. Tarwater stared at Nate just long enough to convey disgust before turning on his heel and marching after Hyland.

  When they were gone, Amy said, "Tarwater is a creep. "

  "He's all right. He's got a job to do is all," Clay said. "What's with the recorder?"

  "The recorder is fine," Nate said.

  "Then what gives? It's a perfect day. " Clay liked to state the obvious when it was positive. It was sunny, calm, with no wind, and the underwater visibility was two hundred feet. It was a perfect day to research whales.

  Nate started handing waterproof cases of equipment to Clay. "I don't know. I may have seen something out there, Clay. I have to think about it and see the pictures. I'm going to drop some film off at the lab, then go back to Papa Lani and write up some research until the film's ready. "

  Clay flinched, just a tad. It was Amy's job to drop off film and write up research. "Okay. How 'bout you, kiddo?" Clay said to Amy. "My new guy doesn't look like he's going to show, and I need someone topside while I'm under. "

  Amy looked to Nate for some kind of approval, but when he simply kept unloading cases without a reaction, she just shrugged. "Sure, I'd love to. "

  Clay suddenly became self-conscious and shuffled in his flip-flops, looking for a second more like a five-year-old kid than a barrel-chested, fifty-year-old man. "By calling you 'kiddo' I didn't mean to dimmish you by age or anything, you know. "

  "I know," Amy said.

  "And I wasn't making any sort of comment on your competency either. "

  "I understand, Clay. "

  Clay cleared his throat unnecessarily. "Okay," he said.

  "Okay," Amy said. She grabbed two Pelican cases full of equipment, stepped up onto the dock, and started schlepping the stuff to the parking area so it could be loaded into Nate's pickup. Over her shoulder she said, "You guys both so need to get laid. "

  "I think that's reverse harassment," Clay said to Nate.

  "I may be having hallucinations," said Nate.

  "No, she really said that," Clay said.

  After Quinn had left, Amy climbed into the Always Confused and began untying the stern line. She glanced over her shoulder to look at the forty-foot cabin cruiser where Captain Tarwater posed on the bow looking like an advertisement for a particularly rigid laundry detergent  -  Bumstick Go-Be-Bright, perhaps.

  "Clay, you ever heard of a uniformed naval officer accompanying a researcher into the field before?"

  Clay looked up from doing a battery check on the GPS. "Not unless the researcher was working from a navy vessel. Once I was along on a destroyer for a study on the effects of high explosives on resident populations of southern sea lions in the Falkland Islands. They wanted to see what would happen if you set off a ten-thousand-pound charge in proximity to a sea lion colony. There was a uniformed officer in charge of that. "

  Amy cast the line back to the dock and turned to face Clay. "What was the effect?"

  "Well, it blew them the fuck up, didn't it? I mean, that's a lot of explosives. "

  "They let you film that for National Science?"

  "Just stills," Clay said. "I don't think they anticipated it going the way it did. I got some great shots of it raining seal meat. " Clay started the engine.

  "Yuck. " Amy untied the bumpers and pulled them into the boat. "But you've never seen a uniformed officer working here? Before now, I mean. "

  "Nowhere else," Clay said. He pulled down the gear lever. There was a thump, and the boat began to creep forward.

  Amy pushed them away from the surrounding boats with a padded boat hook. "What do you think they're doing?"

  "I was trying to find out this morning when you guys came in. They loaded an awfully big case before you got here. I asked what it was, and Tarwater got all sketchy. Cliff said it was some acoustics stuff. "

  "Directional array?" Amy asked. Researchers sometimes towed large arrays of hydrophones that could, unlike a single hydrophone, detect the direction from which sound was traveling.

  "Could be," Clay said. "Except they don't have a winch on their boat.

  "A wench? What are you trying to say, Clay?" Amy feigned being offended. "Are you calling me a wench?"

  Clay grinned at her. "Amy, I am old and have a girlfriend, and therefore I am immune to your hotness. Please cease your useless attempts to make me uncomfortable. "

  "Let's follow them. "

  "They've been working on the lee side of Lanai. I don't want to take the Confused past the wind line. "

  "So you were trying to find out what they're up to?"

  "I fished. No bites. Cliff's not going to say anything with Tarwater standing there. "

  "So let's follow them. "

  "We actually may get some work done today. It's a good day, after all, and we might not get a dozen windless days all season here. We can't afford to lose a day, Amy. Which reminds me, what's up with Nate? Not like him to blow off a good field day. "

  "You know, he's nuts," Amy said, as if it were understood. "Too much time thinking about whales. "

  "Oh, right. I forgot. " As they motored out of the harbor, Clay waved to a group of researchers who had gathered at the fuel station to buy coffee. Twenty universities and a dozen foundations were represented in that group. Clay was single-handedly responsible for making the scientists who worked out of Lahaina into a social community. He knew them all, and he couldn't help it  -  he liked people who worked with whales  -  and he just liked it when people got along.

  He'd started weekly meetings and presentations of papers at the Pacific Whale Sanctuary building in Kihei, which brought all the scientists together to socialize, trade information, and, for some, to try to weasel some useful data out of someone without the burden of field research.

  Amy waved to the group, too, as she dug into one of the orange Pelican waterproof cases. "Come on, Clay, let's follow Tarwater and see what he's up to. " She pulled a huge pair of twenty-power binoculars out of the case and showed them to Clay. "We can watch from a distance. "

  "You might want to go up in the bow and look for whales, Amy. "

  "Whales? They're big and wet. What else do you need to know?"

  "You scientists never cease to amaze me," Clay said. "Come hold the wheel while I get a pencil to write that down. "

  "Let's follow Tarwater. "

     

 
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