My trip to Cabo last week coincided with the annual migration of humpback whales who travel from as far north as Alaska to the Sea of Cortez for the mating season. When I went for a run on the beach, I could see whales a half mile offshore, surfacing for air, exhaling giant geysers of mist, jumping periodically straight into the sky. It is a daily show of power and grace. You can rent a boat with a wise captain who brings you within fifty feet of the giant creatures who are cruising along the shore. The males show off for potential mates, slapping the water with their fins with a resounding bang.
Never did I imagine the next step, swimming with whales. We donned wet suits, snorkels, and fins. You proceed into the sea, slowly and quietly awaiting the giant mammals. You are told to sit on the gunnel, feet projecting over the water, leaning backward for balance. Heart pounding, you wait for what seems forever. Then the guide yells, “Hit the water.” Like an ungainly bird, I descended feet first into the briny deep.
A mother and baby whale slid by me, no more than 20 feet away. I saw the gray striped skin of the mother whale, the left eye, and the enormous tail. I had the sense of a train passing as I stood on the siding. I felt incredibly small and fragile, a lilliputian in the company of giants. All of this took fifteen seconds, and then I surfaced, sputtering, and spitting out salt water, forever changed by my encounter.
I am reading a book about Teddy Roosevelt and the preservation of America’s national parks (The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America). He made his first visit to the Grand Canyon in 1904 accompanied by former Rough Riders who had served with him in the Spanish American War. One of them, David Warford, wrote that Roosevelt’s jaw literally dropped in disbelief when he peered into the Canyon. He went on to give a speech in nearby Flagstaff describing the Canyon. “To all else that is strange and beautiful in nature, the Canyon stands as Karnak and Baalbek, seen by moonlight as other temples and palaces of the bygone ages.” He urged the Arizonans to do more than look at the Grand Canyon, but instead to live within its geological essence.
Well, TR, I did my best to take that advice to heart. Just do it has an entirely new meaning for me.
Richard Edelman is CEO.