I was visiting Santa Barbara, and saw that whale-watching boats were available from the harbor, so I persuaded friends to accompany me on one. It was gripping. Santa Barbara is on the migratory route of Grey whales, and the boat was equipped with sonar to alert it when one was rising to the surface. Suddenly a huge shape surfaced a hundred yards away, and disappeared with a giant splash, leaving the huge split tail, called a fluke, to follow it. We saw several of them on that trip. None seemed at all disturbed by the presence of the boat. I was hooked.
I next chased Orcas (killer whales) off Victoria Island near Vancouver, then Humpback whales off Cape Cod, and Mincke whales off Iceland. The most dramatic was off Cape Cod, when a Humpback surfaced right alongside our boat and splashed everyone. I could see it, grey and gleaming, just yards away, and watched it plunge down, leaving that huge tail fin to follow it to the depths. There is something awesomely thrilling to be so close to creatures so big and watch them go about their business, knowing about our presence, but apparently unperturbed by it.