February 22 – February 29, 2020
Week Five 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!
We arrived to the mooring early Sunday morning; unfortunately by noon the high winds and mixed seas made it too dangerous to load passengers onto the smaller tenders from the Turks & Caicos Explorer II, so the afternoon was spent aboard. The guests enjoyed a leisurely lunch while whales breached in the distance, listened to the safety briefing and got acquainted with the vessel. A ukulele was played on the dive deck, books were read on the sun deck and board games were played in the salon. The next day with winds down and seas beginning to calm, it proved to be a much more comfortable ride. Guests are required to bring their own mask, fins and snorkel on their vacation to the Silver Bank. During our in-water gear test, some guests found their dry snorkels difficult to clear, making it hard to enjoy the environment while constantly stressed about something as involuntary as breathing. With a few alterations and adjustments, the crew had all the guests snorkeling with ease. It is for this reason that we recommend buying your equipment with plenty of time to try it out at home, giving you a chance to test it, become comfortable with it and find what best suits your abilities.
The first encounter of the week began with a pair of sleepers that the two tenders, Escort and Challenger, shared. The whales were calm and peaceful as they rose up from their slumber and passed within thirty feet of the guests floating in the water. Although it is very difficult to tell through observation alone, some of the guests hypothesized that the female was pregnant based on her seemingly large girth. A more accurate determination would be made scientifically through the collection of a mucus sample from the blow and performing a pregnancy test to detect particular enzymes present during pregnancy. Later that day Challenger was lucky enough to come across a mother that had been pregnant likely only a week previous. She had a calf with her that was very light in color and had a bent over dorsal, both characteristic of newborns (one to two weeks). Generally, we will not get into the water with newborns as we want to give baby time to get used to this new environment as well as allow the mother to devote all of her attention to nurturing her new calf.
On the last day for almost two hours, we observed three whales interacting with each other, seemingly dancing. Guests leaned over the gunwale with their cameras in the water trying to catch a glimpse of the mystery below. It was a unique experience; two adult whales dancing is not altogether uncommon but three! Barbara Stone says in her nine years of coming to the Silver Bank she has never witnessed anything quite like it.
The week was full of new experiences. On the sail back to Puerto Plata, we had a chance to sit down and chat with Sam Jno Baptiste, a young man from Massachusetts, twelve years of age and experiencing whales in the water for the first time. “I’ve never been next to a whale that big. When you go whale watching it’s not the same thing, you may see them spy hopping a bit, but you don’t see them interacting the way you do here.” Gabe Bosler-Kilmer, also twelve, says it was great having someone to talk to (he means Sam), and he was amazed at how gentle the whales are. We talked about the three whales we saw interacting the day before and how amazing it was to hear this season’s song on the hydrophone. “It’s a life time experience, I don’t know if it’s a once in a lifetime experience because I may have to do it again. I’m definitely going to come back here,” said Sam.
Leaving the bank, we watched as whales fluked on the horizon, leaving a lasting impression on us all. When you’re able to have these incredible shared experiences, people can bond not just with each other but to nature as well.
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