March 25 – April 1, 2017
Week Ten of our 27th Season
It’s Aquatic Adventures’ penultimate week on the Silver Bank and things are heating up! The surface activity this week was spectacular! While the humpbacks are here for calving and breeding they fast for the duration of their visit as the warm Caribbean waters cannot sustain enough food like the icy nutrient-rich northern waters can. So once a female whale gets pregnant there is little point in her sticking around. As more and more females start their journey to the feeding grounds so the number of available females for mating decreases and the urgency for the males to sow their seed increases! This week we saw several rowdy groups where the males were vying for the position of escort next to a female in the hope of mating again before the season comes to an end. In one such rowdy group this week we heard the distinctive “trumpet blow” from one of the challenging whales in a group made up of mother, calf, escort and two challengers. As the whale came to the surface to breathe, rather than just exhaling normally he would constrict his blow holes to produce a tonal sound much like the trumpet of an elephant.
Females with calves will often attract the amorous attentions of males. Even though these females most likely have no intention of mating because they have a young calf to nurse and train, like other species of mammals, these fifty foot, fifty ton males will do their best to impress regardless! This week’s rowdy groups made for some spectacular surface activity not only from the competing males but also from the mothers and calves. A mother humpback will use this high energy situation as an opportunity to exercise her young calf and strengthen them for the journey north, often traversing the Silver Bank many times in a day. The boisterous babes breached and lob tailed with periods of rest in between and during a couple of these nap times our guests had the opportunity to enter the water with three different mother, calf sets for several minutes at a time. Each time the guests floated above the resting mother while the baby would come to the surface close by our snorkelers every few minutes to breathe.
Also this week we were very lucky to see some interesting behavior from one young curious calf with its mother. The pair swam directly towards our tender, the calf at the surface and the mother just below and as the calf inquisitively approached the boat we were treated to a very cute and deliberate baby “eye-spy hop”. As we’ve seen many times this season, a “spy-hop” is when a whale raises the top of its head straight up out of the water exposing its tubercles and vibrissa to the air to take in information about the above water world. However it is also technically a “spy-hop” when the whale rolls on its side and exposes its eye to look above the water and this young whale did exactly that, right next to our tender and intrigued on looking guests. Humpbacks are able to do this as they have a flattened portion of their eye allowing them to see both below and above the water. The curious calf made a close circle around our tender before mom took baby off to continue on their way.
The next day we had another close encounter of the rowdy kind with a lone male whale. There were a few adults in the area moving around and one began breaching over and over, chin breaches, full spinning head breaches and tail breaches. It was a striking show of strength and prowess no doubt to impress any female whales in the area. And the human observers from our tender, both guests and crew alike were equally impressed watching the massive splashes from only twenty five feet away!! This animated male also “trumpet blew” but this time it sounded less like an elephant and more like a tiger’s growl!
For this our tenth week of the season, the fun and entertainment was not confined to the water as we were joined by some very talented guests who rounded off our relaxing and beautiful days out on the Bank with some live music on the sun deck of the mother ship, the Turks and Caicos Explorer II!
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:
Thanks to all who have generously donated!
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Written by: Pippa Swannell, Aquatic Adventures
Designed by: Heather Reser, Aquatic Adventures