February 17 – February 24 , 2018
Week Four 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:
As the season progresses, the calves get bigger and stronger, building up their muscles and stamina for that inevitable trek up north. Often times we’ll come across a mother and calf that are on a mission moving at higher speeds than usual and spending very little time under the water and it seems this is a sort of exercising or training session for the calf. It makes sense that as they get bigger and stronger their energy levels will increase as well.
This week we were fortunate to find a mother, calf and escort that were very curious. As we slowly and quietly approached them, the mother turned towards the tender and swam in our direction which is always a great sign that she’s comfortable with us. The escort didn’t seem to mind us either as they sat on the surface taking long, slow breaths. They were just starting to descend when suddenly the calf breached out of the water and then play time began!
For almost an hour the calf would trade between attempts at spinning head breaches, chin breaches, lob tailing and fin slapping. Sometimes it seemed that the calf had tired itself out and was going to go down to mom, but then she would do another chin breach or lob tail. Her energy was never ending! All the while mother and escort rested below as we occupied the calf’s time so they could get some much needed rest.
Aquatic Adventures team member Joe Lamontagne:
Interacting with humpback whales in their natural habitat is extremely rewarding. Being in the water alongside a humpback whale is something most people do not get to experience. As a crew member, we occasionally take some of the encounters for granted because we compare them to our most memorable experiences; however, seeing our guests get into the water with humpbacks for their first time changes that. On the first day of the week, we got the opportunity to get into the water with two whales as they swam past us. With all the wind we have been having, the water’s visibility was down and the two whales kept their distance from us so we could only make out their shapes. My thoughts on the encounter were mundane and therefore I was surprised when I heard the excitement coming from everyone in the water. As I was in the water, I even received a great big hug from one of the guests saying how awesome it was to see a whale beside them in the water. The encounter lasted only a few seconds, but everyone was ecstatic and happy. As we got back onboard the tender, Lorenzo said that the same whales only moved off a bit and it looked like they had settled. We tried again and this time we found the whales resting below us. When we first positioned ourselves downwind of them, the male got curious and rose up to the surface to check us all out. He spent a few minutes alongside us then went back down to the female. While the female rested, the male would come back up to the surface two or three times and always came up alongside us. What seemed like a mediocre fly-by turned out to be the start of a several hour encounter with the whale pair leaving all of us having a very memorable experience.
Aquatic Adventures team member Lorenzo Martinez:
Week 4 began with (finally!) a good crossing to the bank. We arrived at 9AM to whales in the distance saying hello and welcoming us to the Silver Bank for the new guests.
It’s always nice to have old friends return that have been coming out with us for many seasons (Pat, Bill and Nancy, Don and Barbara) bringing good memories and excitement for new ones.
It was a great week with wonderful encounters; mothers and their calves, whales breaching, fin slapping, tail breaching and long underwater encounters.
On Sunday we had the opportunity to be with a mother and her calf that brought us joy, giving us a soft-in-water encounter.
On Monday morning we saw a lot of “blows and goes”. It was a morning that felt like they all talked to each other and decided it was time to move. In the afternoon a pair of whales were spotted in the coral area and we were gratefully able to get in the water with them.
Tuesday the weather started to change as the wind increased a little and we decided to hold back for an hour. We expected the wind to drop down a bit, and after it did we were able to go. We spotted a pair of adult whales and started working them. After a moment they stopped to rest and Joe was able to get into the water. He let me know that they were resting and it was ok to get in. We enjoyed these adults for two hours! Unfortunately the wind started to increase again making it impossible to go out in the afternoon. The week continued with a little bit of wind but it wasn’t strong enough to stop us from going out. The mornings were less busy than the afternoons as we saw more activity and groups of whales.
Thursday was a quiet morning but a busy afternoon as my tender spotted a blow in the distance. When we approached we saw a single juvenile whale who was curious and approached the tender. Joe got in the water to confirm that the whale was not going to swim away. The juvenile was a male and as we put our guests in the water he continued to come and circle around the people. At the same time, our other tender “Challenger” was having an encounter with a mother and her calf. After a few encounters with the juvenile we decided to join the mother and calf. We recognized the mother from the previous day when we had seen her but left her and her calf alone. This time she allowed us to interact for more than three hours.
This week was an extended week so we stayed Friday morning, going out at 8 AM and finding the same mother and her calf again. This time the accommodating mother allowed our swimmers a final encounter for two and a half hours.
We learn and believe that if we leave them alone when they don’t want any interaction they can recognize us again and next time will more likely allow us to have a “soft in water encounter”.
Aquatic Adventures team member Denise Lawrence:
As we begin to move towards the middle of the season the calves are growing larger and stronger and it seems to me that the moms are more in need of babysitters. If the moms allow us to play the role of babysitter, this allows mom a chance to rest for longer periods while we keep baby interested and occupied. If they do not feel the need to take off far from mom then mom won’t have to wake from her rest and keep up with her energy filled little one. One afternoon this week we came across a mother, calf and escort that were exhibiting the type of behavior that we look for in order to interact with us. After just a short period of time we quickly gained the confidence of mom, baby and escort. We know this because all three stopped and went down below to take a rest, allowing the crew and guests to silently slip into the water and push up to where they had settled, giving us the chance to observe them. Mom allowed baby to come up to the surface alone for its breathing cycle just a few feet away. When the calf came up, she stayed close to where mom was by circling above her on the surface. We saw she was a little girl when she rolled around, as if having some toys to play with but never straying from right above mom. We were able to call our other tender over to share this encounter that lasted for several hours and as the day was coming to an end we decided to call in another one of the operators to also share in the beautiful experience.
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: Aquatic Adventures team members
Edited by: Heather Reser, Aquatic Adventures
All images © Tom Conlin unless noted