The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. ~Aristotle

    Picture yourself scrambling into your panga, a 22- foot fishing skiff. The small motor cranks, and you're off, chugging into the waters of the San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja California, Mexico. You have come here because here is the only place in the world where one may experience the phenomenon. And the past 50 years is the only time.

    The water is a bit choppy, and the wooden seat in the little boat is not soft or comfortable. But you soon forget about those minor annoyances. You hear a soft huff, and plumes of water rise in every direction. Here, as ancient maritime maps declare, there be whales.

    Within feet of your boat, crescents of gray and white emerge, sink, then rise again. A giant lifts a huge head out of the water vertically. Spyhop! Here the water is thirty feet deep, so the creature is likely standing on his flukes to see the puny visitors to the surface of his lagoon.

  • But the real purpose of your visit is now approaching. Two enormous shapes split the water, moving slowly toward the boat. A mother and calf, you are told. For this is the gray whales' nursery. They migrate from the Bering Sea to mate and birth here in this lagoon. The giants move toward you--straight toward you. Then the mother dives, stops beneath her baby, and lifts the calf toward the surface. The baby's face rises from the water, within inches of your own. Trembling, you stretch out your hand. Gently, scarcely breathing, you are allowed to place that hand on the head of the baby whale, to feel its excited quivering as the amazing softness and spongy smoothness fill you with awe. The baby expels air from its blowhole, misting you with droplets. Amazingly, the mother rises beside it, allowing you to stroke her great head as well. Then the two dive beneath the boat and disappear.

    You have been given an astonishing privilege--you have been approached by a Friendly, a whale wishing to make contact with a human being, trusting you with her baby as well.

  • And this trust was initiated by the creatures of the deep, not earned or even sought by man. The first encounter took place about 50 years ago. Señor Mayoral was fishing from his little panga when a gigantic face rose beside his boat. Through his terror, he realized the creature wasn't there to harm him, but to examine him curiously. And it was willing to be examined and touched in return. Since then the Friendlies of San Ignacio have become legend.

    I was afforded the privilege of such trust, and I knew immediately the adventure had to become a love story. And here it is, complete with a few characters I've met on my travels. I hope you enjoy sharing it with me.

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