February 1 – February 8, 2020
Week Two 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!
Patience Is a Virtue
It was our second week on the Silver Bank, the winds had picked up and on arrival we noticed the presence of fishing boats with loud 2 stroke engines in the area. Here on the Silver Bank, line or net fishing is prohibited but local fishermen are legally able to use Hookah rigs to spearfish targeted species. For the first two days whale activity was low and those we did come across were travelling through, not willing to settle.
Some hypothesized that the increased noise from the fishing boats may have disturbed the whales, causing them to avoid the immediate area. Considering the Silver Bank covers approximately 26 square nautical miles, a huge area in which we only survey about 4 square miles, it could have just been a coincidence. During these slack periods without whales, spirits remained high as conversation flowed, word games were played, and snacks were happily consumed – all while everyone kept their eyes watching for blows. As we always say, “Anything can happen, at any time”.
Tuesday of this week, we had encountered a few breaching whales and even though the fishing boat activity had moved out of the area, the bank seemed quiet. It was 15:30 when the tender Challenger came across two curious adult whales that seemed to show an interest in the boat. A scout on Challenger got into the water, located the whales and informed the captain to send the guests in. The group rested peacefully at the surface while the whales circled them, seemingly curious and attracted to the tender. They hung with us for an hour and forty minutes, giving the other tender, Escort, a chance to have an encounter with them as well.
Guests reported hearing the whales “chirping” and chatting with each other, not quite a song but some type of communication between the two. They swam in and out of view, returned, rested beneath, and danced. We recognized entanglement scarring on one of the whales and wondered if their affinity to the boat and people was a result of their possible experience with a disentanglement team. (Video below – sound on to hear the “chirping”!)
This week we also came across a whale with scarring just before its dorsal that appeared to be a bite, perhaps occurring earlier in its life as it had already scarred white against the black skin. In addition, Escort was lucky enough to come across a singer whose singing was so loud that it reverberated through the hull so everyone could hear.
As a perfect finale to the week, we met up with a mother, calf and an escort during what we call a breaching training session. Guests watched from the tender as the calf continuously launched itself out of the water like a torpedo, pectorals tucked at the side, probably trying to achieve a spinning head breach. The escort stayed close by and at one point came directly to the tender, raising its head above the surface three times to check us out before diving down. Then just off the bow he came soaring through the air, performing a perfect spinning head breach!
Perhaps he did this to demonstrate to the calf the proper way to perform this move, or was he just showing off? We’ll never know but that’s the magic of the Silver Bank, watching in wonder at whatever nature and these magnificent whales show us each week.
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: Aquatic Adventures or as credited