January 23 – January 30, 2016
Week One of our 26th Season
As thousands of North Atlantic Humpback whales make their annual migration from icy, nutrient rich northern waters down to the warmth of the tropical Southern Caribbean, Aquatic Adventures began their 26th year on the Silver Bank.
Day one, week one and the whales were already putting on a stunning show. After a wet and windy crossing with high seas (due to the winter storm that struck the Eastern seaboard) from the Dominican Republic to the shallow and protected underwater plateau that is the Silver Bank, this season’s first guests were treated to a wonderful display of surface activity from a newly arrived mother humpback, calf and adult male escort. Mother and baby breached and fin slapped, enjoying the Caribbean sunshine while despite impressive displays of fin slapping and tail breaching, the mother seemed uninterested in the male’s advances and remained close to the tender. This acceptance of us by the mother resulted in everyone having their first unique opportunity to enter the water and see the gentle giants in their natural environment numerous times for both tenders. By simply floating at the surface and observing the whales passively, termed a “soft-in-water encounter”, our guests get to experience the whales on their terms and in this case the mother’s ease with us led to a fantastic first day. To see the intimate interaction between a mother and her calf as the baby returns to tuck itself under the pectoral fin of mama after taking a breath at the surface, is a truly emotional and heartwarming sight. With such a relaxed mother and calf and an escort that tolerated our presence, a few of the guests that were initially extremely anxious to get in the water, with help and guidance from the whale crew, forgot their inhibitions and couldn’t wait to get in the water again.
During the week many more encounters provided great surface activity and numerous chances to enter the water, despite the windy conditions. On the final day as the sun came out and the seas calmed we decided to stay out over lunch, so as not to miss any opportunities and boy are we glad we did!! With a light lunch and plenty of snacks to keep people’s energy up we encountered 3 separate pairs of mothers and calves with surface activity and “soft-in-water” encounters lasting from 10:30 in the morning till 4:30 in the afternoon. We found a mother, calf and escort in the sheltered clear water area where there are hundreds of large coral heads. This is a fantastic place to see the whales under the water as they maneuver between the coral, so graceful in their enormity, you really get a feel for their size; it’s a very humbling and peaceful experience. In the afternoon the excitement picked up again when we had the season’s first sighting of a rowdy group where typically 2 or more (sometimes as many as 15 or 20) males will jostle and duel to gain access to a potential mate. On this occasion four whales were involved but we look forward to many more impressive displays as the season unfolds.
Not only was everyone entertained out on the water but also aboard the mother ship, the Turks and Caicos Explorer II, where guests and crew alike were lucky enough to have the musical talents of Blake Miller and Robert Aukerman from Colorado on acoustic guitar and Chicago boy Larry Saint Germain on drums to keep us entertained after a busy day out enjoying the “Whales of the Silver Bank”!
A fantastic start, looks like things are shaping up for an amazing season!
The Aquatic Adventures team hopes that you are as inspired as we are to help sustain the humpback whale population. Through our partnership with the Center for Coastal Studies, we are helping to gain critical information on these charismatic creatures, and to seek ways to protect and preserve them. To find out more about this effort, join their mailing list or to make a donation, large or small, please visit:
Written by: Pippa Swannell, Aquatic Adventures
Designed by: Heather Reser, Aquatic Adventures