January 25 – February 1, 2020
Week One of our 30th Season
This year Aquatic Adventures embarks on its 30th 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 each week. We hope you enjoy following along!
Unbelievable Encounters, Unbelievable Weather
It’s week one on the Silver Bank. The Turks & Caicos Explorer II has been updated and looks fantastic sitting at the Ocean World Marina dock awaiting its passengers. The crew is busy setting up staterooms, working lines and prepping delicious meals for the week to come. The first guests of the season arrive and board at 5 o’clock and enjoy a spread of fruit, tapas and happy hour cocktails. No one is sure of what to expect and we won’t know for another 12 hours until we arrive on the Silver Bank and the first light touches the horizon. Will the good weather hold? Will there be whale encounters? Everyone waits in anticipation.
Following a 10 hour crossing from Puerto Plata to the North East corner of the Silver Bank, guests woke from their slumbers to calm seas and light winds. They gathered in the salon to enjoy a hot breakfast and learn about PIWWE (pronounced pee wee), a Passive In Water Whale Encounter technique developed by Aquatic Adventures owner Tom Conlin. The PIWWE technique utilizes the environment to interact with the whales in the least disruptive way possible, respecting the fact that we are guests in their world. It requires quiet entry from the tender and proper placement in the water to reduce the need to reposition. The goal of PIWWE is to build a trusting relationship with the whale/s and to never aggressively approach them. It is because of this approach that Tom and his team are able to achieve some incredible encounters.
(Photo: © Kevin Jakubowski)
Our group this week was blessed with a wide array of encounters, each day seemingly having different themes. On the first day we came across a mother and calf with escort. We were able to join her and watch as the calf came up several times to take a breath and then go back down to the comfort of its mother. After 20 minutes of observing this behavior, the mother and calf began to move away and the escort followed, but not before turning closely to the group head on, then turning broadside and displaying a gentle yet close pass of his fluke.
The second day the group came across a curious couple of adults that hung mid water column inspecting the group passively floating at the surface. The pair spy hopped, vertically raising their rostrums above the surface of the water for several moments, before returning underwater and swimming close enough for all to see the details of the barnacles under their chins.
The third day we came across singers, some travelling one-man bands (as tender driver Denise likes to call them) and some head down using the sea floor to bounce their song off of. While in the water, the range of vocals and the vibrations felt throughout their bodies with every deep note amazed the guests. The fourth day brought us the perfect example of a #5 Fluke, not overly common and used in identifying whales. The patterns on the fluke are categorized by a number system, #1 to #5, fully white to fully black fluke, respectively.
The weather all week was unbelievable; very low winds left us with calm flat seas and 90 miles off shore that seemed like the closest thing to a miracle. On the last day just before lunch was an encounter with a mother and calf that ended in a training session of tail breaching, lob tailing, spinning head breaching and more. It was a perfect bookend to a blessed week where such a large variety of behaviors were observed and enjoyed by all. Keep an eye out for Lufthansa Travel Magazine for their article describing their first hand experience on the Silver Bank with Aquatic Adventures.
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: As credited. Thank you Kevin & Humberto for sharing your images!