I SPIED THE bull turning circles an hour out from Yellow Patch. I was alone on the Looma, the cool August air settling on the back of my neck as I leaned against the wheel. A day of rain had merged the horizon with the sky smothering the swell and the ocean slapped against the hull with an eerie calm. Watching the expanse of grey for the tell-tale spouts of humpbacks all morning in the drizzle, the Pacific had betrayed nothing. Then a hundred yards out the surface broke with sigh. I held the wheel steady. Spray like a flock of birds shot into the sky.
Measuring only thirty feet, on any other day, in any other season, I would have let him take the run on me but August 1962 was a different story. I needed this whale. And worse, I wanted it. With desire that rumbled like desperation, I approached. Isolated from his pod, he was skittish and saw me coming. He made one deep dive, then another and with a roaring engine I chased him north from the whaling grounds out into the channel. Each time the whale surfaced, his heaving back was just too far out to make the shot. Even without a crew, the Looma was peeling a neat wake through the calm waters and I stayed with the bull as he led me out past Bribie, all the way to the Sunshine Coast.
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