February 16 – February 23, 2019
Week Four of our 29th Season
This year Aquatic Adventures embarks on its 29th 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!
There is nothing better than spotting a mom and calf, making our way over to them and mom immediately going down for a rest as if to say “here are the babysitters”. This particular mom and calf were located up in the coral heads bringing beautiful scenery to highlight them. Mom would stay down for about fifteen minutes at a time, allowing baby to come to the surface to breathe and check out the people resting above. When mom would come up to breathe she would take several breaths and go directly back down, barely moving a body length. They spent the whole afternoon with us until we finally had to head back to the mothership as the sun began setting.
– Denise Lawrence, Aquatic Adventures team member
Each week on the Silver Bank continues to impress everyone who comes out to look at whales. There are always special encounters that really make each week incredible to witness. One of the great encounters this week was provided by a mother and her calf. The mother had taken her calf into an area of the Silver Bank where massive coral heads litter the area. The water depth is typically shallower in these areas which makes it quite a sight to see when watching whales. With the surrounding coral heads and the mother and calf amongst them, it provides a great size representation of the whales. They look a lot bigger when they sprawl above a coral head and both their head and tail stick out on either end. From looking at the coral head, you would expect it to be at least 30ft across which starts the realization of how big the whales are that we have been seeing throughout the week.
The second time we snorkeled with the mother and calf, the mother slowly drifted backwards until tucking herself in between two coral heads that reached the water’s surface. There she laid resting with her calf for the remainder of her breath cycle. During this time, the calf’s breath cycle only lasted a fraction of its mother’s and was surfacing every 2-3 minutes. During this time, the calf became curious with all of the snorkelers watching and would turn towards us, continuing to take breaths while approaching. The last breath of the cycle would be intense, because we weren’t sure what the calf was going to do. He had gotten so close to everyone at this point that we would be backing up expecting it to pass through us. Instead, he would dive underwater right in front of us and turn head first back towards his mother. He did this same behavior 4 times while waiting for his mother to start her breath cycle.
– Joe Lamontagne, Aquatic Adventures team member
It was another amazing week on the Silver Bank. The ten-hour crossing was an enjoyable, smooth sail and all were looking forward to being on the bank when the moon was at its fullest this month. The weather and wind in the beginning of the week stayed calm and cooperative, allowing for many great passive in-water whale encounters. One day, early in the week, we were able to approach a resting mother and calf amongst the coral heads. The calf was calm and surfacing to breathe every 3 minutes or so and mother was very peaceful, resting on the bottom, moving only slightly to counteract the current that seemed to be running a little heavier this week, perhaps due to the increased tides and full moon.
We carefully slip into the water and position ourselves just downwind of the humpback and her calf. The calf resting under the head of the mother seemed curious but cautious, peering up at us before slowly rising to the surface to breathe. At first turning from us but always circling back around, keeping its distance, to once again descend in front and settle back under mom. There, we would wait and watch, as the calf remained protected from our sight, all but its small pectoral fins appearing alongside giving the only indication of its whereabouts.
Then, a most beautiful scene, mother and calf began to rise vertically to the surface together, ventral pleats towards the group, calf staying just under mom’s chin, pectoral fins of both creatures spread wide, as if reaching to embrace with a whale-sized hug. Mother and calf display themselves before us like a perfectly designed statue. It reminded me of a monument high on a hilltop, offering worship to the Gods. No matter your beliefs, with encounters like these around every coral head, it is no surprise that the Silver Bank is a greatly loved and appreciated place of spiritual connectivity. Sailing back to Puerto Plata, fond memories of the week run through our minds as we watch the abundant and dynamic surface activity. Humpbacks, one after another, chin breach, tail lob and lift their pectoral fins high in the air as if to say “so long”.
– Gillian Morin, Aquatic Adventures team member
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: www.coastalstudies.org/aquaticadventures
We are proud to support SeaLegacy in their efforts to create powerful media to change the narrative around our world’s oceans. Their mission is to inspire the global community to protect our oceans. To learn more about SeaLegacy and help with this important mission, please visit: https://www.sealegacy.org
Thanks to all who have generously donated!
Learn more about Aquatic Adventures here.
Written & Edited by: Aquatic Adventures team members
Images: guests Dirk Duevel and Laura Stoecker Photography LTD – thank you Dirk & Laura!