March 14 – March 21, 2020
Week Eight of our 30th Season
This year Aquatic Adventures embarked 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 unfolded we highlighted some of the various encounters and experiences of our guests each week. We hope you enjoyed following along!
Magical Beginning, Unexpected Ending
We spent a magical first few days on the bank enjoying numerous encounters with the majestic humpback whales and their adorable calves. With the sun shining and the wind blowing, everyone was enjoying themselves while blissfully unaware of the figurative storm that was heading our way.
Our normal preparations for another day spent out with the whales was interrupted by some news on the morning of Wednesday, March 18th. The Dominican Republic had reported that they were closing all ports to travel in and out of the country as of 6 am Thursday morning! Those daily excursion preparations immediately turned into preparing to leave the bank for the early return to port. We continued to get updates about options for evacuation as the crew worked to hurriedly prepare the tenders for towing, remove the moorings, ready the Turks & Caicos Explorer II for departure while also caring for the guests. Whales continued to breach as we left the bank; nothing had changed under the fine veneer of surface water for these whales. Although we knew we were making the right decision about leaving mid week, it was with a somber feeling that we all watched the Silver Bank disappear behind us.
Arriving at the dock at 5 pm, within the next hour or so we prepared for our departure from the boat, said our goodbyes and loaded the 18 guests into a bus and crew into a van to travel to the airport. We arrived at the airport 45 minutes later where there was minimal staff remaining. With no other flights available that evening and over 20 people needing to get back to the United States, Aquatic Adventures had been able to book a private jet that was scheduled to take us to Miami at 8 pm.
The Turks & Caicos Explorer II completed a quick fueling and left the dock by 6 pm for an 18 hour sail back to the Turks and Caicos Islands. Luckily, three of our crew members, Lorenzo (Dominican), Kris (Polish) and Hart (South African) stayed behind to take care of the remaining tasks of pulling out the tenders and stowing gear. Lorenzo was able to fly back to France a few weeks later where his family resides, but Kris and Hart still remain in the Dominican Republic, unable to get flights to their respective homes.
It has been over three months since Aquatic Adventures has been out on the Silver Bank, and with that 8th week cut short and our remaining three trips cancelled, our 30th season certainly didn’t finish up the way we had hoped. Regardless of how it ended, we’re so grateful for the opportunity to have shared with all of our guests joining us this season the unforgettable experience of meeting North Atlantic humpback whales above and below the water. One of our guests who joined us on that abbreviated last week shared her experience:
The Silver Bank has become my home away from home. My love for whales has me addicted to this trip and every time I come home I start planning my next trip. This was my 5th trip with Aquatic Adventures but this time I filled the boat with 16 of my friends. There is something so special about seeing your friends in the water with gigantic humpback whales for the first time and I love coming back to see the crew.
This year ended up being quite different though….as we got closer to our trip date the Covid-19 virus started closing the world down. Some of us were wondering if we should even go on the trip. But when you plan a trip for over a year you buck up and go! To make a long story short we got to the DR on a Thursday and boarded the boat on Saturday. We traveled 90 miles out to the Silver Bank and had a wonderful 3 days with the whales.
Come Wednesday morning some decisions had to be made and they had to be made fast. We were being updated every day about what was happening with the world and the pandemic, and BAM the DR was shutting down. We had to get back to port ASAP as all airports and everything were closing. If we were going to get back to Colorado we had to be on a flight that night. Well thanks to the amazing crew we were able to charter a private plane to Miami which cost an arm and a leg but it was what we had to do.
I was very sad our time with the whales got cut short but it was a blessing to have such an amazing group of people come together in a time of crisis and work together to get everyone home safe. I think this specific group and crew will be bonded for life and no one else will ever have this kind of ADVENTURE with Aquatic Adventures. I can’t wait to go back and be with the whales!
– Kim McMann
We can’t wait either! Looking forward to our 31st season of “Whales of the Silver Bank”, beginning January 23rd, 2021!
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 with contribution from guest Kim McMann
Edited by: Aquatic Adventures team member Heather Reser
Images: Aquatic Adventures and guests Jamie Quisumbing, Alejandro Jones, Trish Brown and Kim McMann