March 23 – March 30, 2019
Week Nine 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!
This season on the Silver Bank the weather on average has been moderate winds, clear skies and light seas. Occasionally, days of heavy wind, rain and rough seas occur but if the guests stay positive and motivated we are all often rewarded with unique and beautiful encounters. When the weather does turn less favorable, as it did Monday this week, the guests have the option to stay on the mother ship to watch the surface activity from the comforts of the salon or they can opt to board the tender and brave the elements. Those who went out had a mother and calf breaching together for over a half hour by the tender and the second tender enjoyed a unique in-water experience with a resting mother and calf in the rain 90 miles off shore.
After lunch that day, the skies opened up and with the sun shining we all headed out again, searching for another perfect encounter. In the distance, Lorenzo, Escort’s tender driver, noticed two whales displaying some interesting surface activity. As he pulled the tender closer, the group watched as the snout of an adult humpback slowly raised above the surface, turned and slowly lowered back down while the fluke of the other followed suit. Although active, the two adult humpbacks didn’t seem to be leaving the area and as we slipped into the water we realized these whales were dancers. They rotated with pectoral fins spread, spun upside down under the group and floated vertically, raising their flukes high about the surface.
A second time, nearing the end of the day, we spotted a fluke rising out of the water just off the stern of the mother ship, the Turks and Caicos Explorer II. The dancers! Our group got into the water as people on board rushed to the back deck to watch from the surface. Some, including the chef on board, quickly got their gear together and slipped into the water to enjoy the show and what a show it was! By this time the male had calmed and the female seem to be showing off for us, spinning and twisting around the coral head just off the stern of the boat, leaving and then returning, time and time again, until finally swimming off and leaving us with a lasting impression.
The next day the winds calmed down and the ocean became flat and glass-like. Guests on board the tenders could see coral heads in detail rising up from 90 feet below the surface. Our first encounter of the day was a travelling mother and calf. We decided to enter the water and try a fly by. We were pleasantly surprised, not just because the view of the mother and calf was beautiful but trailing behind her was a singing male! Twice more we entered the water with the same mother and calf and twice more the male trailing behind sang as he passed us by, seemingly trying to serenade her as she swam along. Unbelievably, later that day, both tenders were lucky enough to spend some more time with the same two dancing whales from the day before among the coral heads in the clear shallow water. Keeping our distance, we watched as the female inverted, coming belly-to-belly with the male and resting peacefully. It was nearing sunset so we had to leave them and this spectacular display of agility and grace.
Aboard this week was a charter by Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris and founder of the citizen science website Happywhale. We were delighted to find matches to several whales known from collaborative research efforts in the North Atlantic such as NA-5658, with sightings from feeding grounds off Newfoundland dating back to 1993. Check out this whale’s sightings here: https://happywhale.com/individual/9697;enc=60818
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 by: Aquatic Adventures team member Gillian Morin
Edited by: Aquatic Adventures team member Heather Reser
Images: Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris and Fanie Weldhagen – THANK YOU!
Video: Turks & Caicos Explorer II Captain Jean-Francois Chabot