February 20 ~ February 27, 2016
Week Five of our 26th Season
Mid season on the Silver Bank and the whales are everywhere! It is thought that between five and seven thousand North Atlantic Humpback whales come and go through this area over the five month calving and breeding season and as time goes by we are seeing more and more new mothers and their babies. Newly born calves are able to swim, breathe and nurse but they stay very close to their mothers in these first few months while they build their confidence.
This week we encountered numerous mother and calf pairs and on a sunny Tuesday afternoon one mother whale in particular allowed us a wonderful in-water encounter with her and her babe. The mother and calf were accompanied by an escort and all three whales were completely relaxed and unfazed by the presence of our two tenders and excited snorkelers. While mother and escort rested below the surface at fifteen feet, the new babe, still perfecting her buoyancy, bobbed gently to the surface every five minutes or so to take a few breaths before returning to tuck neatly under mum’s pectoral fin or chin. The relaxed trio chose to stay with us for more than five hours allowing all of our guests their turn in sharing in this most tender and special encounter with these awe-inspiring mammals. In between snoozes, when the mother rose to take breaths, she would gently balance the babe over her head in a behavior called the nose push. This very intimate action is thought to be done directly after birth when the mother assists the calf to take her first breath and so must undoubtedly provide a comforting and bonding experience for the young whale and new mum. The encounter was made all the more special by a spectacular back drop of coral heads and crystal clear waters, very much appreciated by photographers in the group!
Although we are thankful for every encounter no matter how long or short, with mother and calf groups at every turn it almost seemed inevitable that we would have another chance to enter the water, and sure enough, we did! This time, as incredible as it sounds the whales actually chose us rather than the other way around! Whilst in the water with one mother/calf pair we were disheartened when they quickly moved away. However we soon discovered that the reason was because another mother/calf pair was making a bee-line for our tender and proceeded to settle right below us!! Not wanting to miss this opportunity given to us by the mother whale, we slipped into the water and had yet another beautiful encounter. This boisterous youngster was a little livelier than the last and playfully bobbed around on the surface showing off his new found moves as a budding acrobat of the sea. We can only assume that the new mother was glad to have her energetic boy kept entertained by us as much as we were entertained by him, while she napped peacefully below. After more than an hour with the two whales we exited the water for the last time and, as if in reward for our babysitting, the mother whale awoke and performed two consecutive spinning head breaches. A perfect end to a perfect day!
Along with the wonderful in-water encounters this week we also enjoyed dramatic top-side activity with two adult whales fin slapping for more than an hour and numerous opportunities to get that perfect fluke shot with lob-tailing whales.
And to top off another great charter we were extremely lucky one night to hear the lullaby of a singing whale through the hull of the mother ship while we all lay in our bunks!!! The chances of a whale happening to be right under the mother ship, singing at a time when the whole boat is quiet are so slim that the phenomenon is a very rare and special thing.
Seeing humpback whales in the water for the first time is an extremely emotional and memorable experience, and this week for three very talented guests the whales got their creative juices flowing! Thank you Cathleen, Allegra and Alicia for sharing your sketches, paintings and songs with us this week, all inspired by the beautiful Whales of the Silver Bank!
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