February 10 – February 17, 2018
Week Three of our 28th Season
This year Aquatic Adventures embarks on its 28th year of providing our guests the unique opportunity to encounter the North Atlantic humpback whales on their breeding and calving grounds, the Silver Bank. As the season unfolds, we’ll be highlighting some of the various encounters and experiences of our guests and team members from their perspectives. We hope you enjoy following along!
Aquatic Adventures team member Brandt Brown:
One aspect I find so intriguing and amazing about being on the Silver Bank is when a whale chooses to have an encounter with us. While out on the tenders we’re looking for specific behaviors that show us that a whale is calm, comfortable, and most importantly staying in one area. It can be a mother and calf, a single male singing, or what we call ‘sleepers’.
Sleepers are usually a pair of adult whales that move very little while on the surface, taking 4 to 5 slow, deep breaths before descending. Depending on their mood they can stay down anywhere from 10 mins to a whopping 45 mins! The hope is that when they decide to come to the surface to breath they’ll ascend right in front of us, giving us a close encounter. It really is something special. Sometimes their eyes are closed during the entire process and it’s almost like they’re on auto-pilot.
And then there are times when the female takes an interest in the group and gives a little more. This week we shared an encounter where the female would go down and rest with her head pointed straight down towards the sea bottom and her fluke up towards the surface in an almost totally vertical position. This was interesting behavior in its own right, but the real treat was when she decided to come up for air. Ever so slowly she’d begin to rise up until she was horizontal beneath us, and then she would point her head up at us and roll towards her right showing us her belly and the bright whites of her ventral pleats! She was so calm and peaceful, yet her movements felt very deliberate. As she broke the surface to exhale her eye was open and looking right at us, and it seemed like she’d wave her pectoral fin just enough to let us know we were both sharing an incredible encounter.
Aquatic Adventures team member Joe Lamontagne:
Wednesday morning, we spotted two whales laying on the surface completing their breathing cycle. As we approached, the two whales slowly turned and swam away from us. We recognized this, and immediately stopped our tender and drifted, waiting to see what the whales would do next. One of the whales started to turn around but the other whale maneuvered itself alongside the other preventing her from turning towards us completely. They moved off a few body lengths before stopping and laying on the surface again. We tried approaching again and this time the same whale who had turned before started swimming towards us. Tom suggested we should try a fly-by since the one whale seemed curious, so we all got in and waited for the whales. We watched as both whales swam towards us then ever so slightly changed angles, positioning their bodies alongside all of us before swimming away. Lorenzo signaled to me that the whales were turning around and would be “circling the wagon”; a term used to describe when whales are circling the people in the water. I immediately got all of my guests to tighten up and wait for the whales’ return. On this pass, I learned that the curious whale was female, because she swam past with her belly facing us. She passed incredibly close to all of us, causing us to back up, especially since she had her pectoral fin extended towards us. On the next pass, she first appeared below us and coming straight upwards towards us at the surface. With the angle she was coming, I knew she would be spy hopping, but I hardly expected her to spy hop all the way to her chin while only a few feet away from us! Her towering head left half of us mesmerized by the display while the other half backed away from the towering whale. I had to grab hold of several people’s legs before they registered that they needed to back away from her as she gracefully lowered herself back down. This behavior continued for the rest of the morning, allowing both tenders to experience the curious whale.
Aquatic Adventures team member Lorenzo Martinez:
The weather in week 3 on the Silver Bank made our crossing a little difficult as we arrived Sunday afternoon after a delay in our departure.
Monday started with a little bit of wind which held us from going out for the morning. Luckily the wind started to decrease in the afternoon and we were able to go out to look for whales.
The next two days were difficult because of weather as the wind was blowing again. We were able to go out on Wednesday and saw a lot of whales on the bank and some surface activity such as fin slapping and breaching. We were able to get in the water with a pair of calm, relaxed whales for an hour and in the afternoon we appreciated some more surface activity.
Thursday the weather continued to improve, giving us the opportunity to have a great day with a pair of curious whales. The female was circling the swimmers and the male was checking them out for two hours. Both tenders were able to share this encounter, and after that other whales showed up and started fin slapping and spy hopping.
Friday morning we had an exciting rowdy group show of 8 whales pushing each other, trumpet blowing and ramming on top of one another right next to the tender. After an hour we decided to let the other tender enjoy the show and we looked for other whales. We found a mother with her calf, followed by an escort. We weren’t able to get in the water but enjoyed the view from the topside.
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!
LIKE us on Facebook
FOLLOW us on Twitter
Learn more about Aquatic Adventures here.
Written by: Aquatic Adventures team members
Edited by: Heather Reser, Aquatic Adventures
All images © Tom Conlin unless noted