January 22 – January 29, 2022
Week One of our 31st Season
This year Aquatic Adventures embarks on its 31st season 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 highlight some of the various encounters and experiences of our guests each week. We hope you enjoy following along!
Back to the Bank!
Welcome Back! After cancelling our 2021 season due to continued concerns of COVID-19, we are happy to announce that we are again operating for our twelve week season on the Silver Bank. We would like to start out by saying, on behalf of the whole crew here at Aquatic Adventures, thank you for your continuous support and unwavering loyalty. This week we had some old friends return and some new faces that will surely become old friends. The whales are still here and although we can’t say for certain, we can imagine that in 2021 they continued to live as they always have, perhaps wondering where their terrestrial playmates had gotten to. But thankfully, with the help of our crew adhering to strict health and safety measures and the cooperation & support of our guests, we are back!
We left the dock in Puerto Plata on Saturday evening for a ten-hour trip to the mooring area located 83 miles off the coast. The sun rises just as we arrive on the Bank and whales begin to appear one after another until the Turks & Caicos Explorer II (TCEXII) is surrounded. We slow down and keep a keen watch for any whales in our path, making any necessary adjustments to our course. Tom Conlin, the founder of Aquatic Adventures, delivers the introduction to our guests while the crew quickly prepares the tenders. We will be heading out to our first in water encounter just after lunch! It doesn’t take long after departing the TCEXII before we encounter our first whales, a mother and calf with an escort.
The calf, we estimate to be anywhere between 3-5 weeks old; the escort, a male humpback whale that is not very likely to be the father of the calf but an interested party in mating with the female. Whether this happens or not, we believe is at the discretion of the female. She is curious and the calf is extremely playful, both hovering close to the surface with the calf twisting and turning, showing off in front of our group of snorkelers. A wonderful experience for our first day in the water.
Monday and Tuesday brought singers, whales that vocalize through their nasal passages creating high and low tones so loud and strong that guests can feel the vibrations through their bodies. We do not always come across singers, so we consider ourselves very lucky to have this rare experience especially on the first week.
Wednesday the mother and calf from Sunday return. The calf is as adventurous as before, twisting and turning in front of the guests. We can speculate that the calf is training to get stronger or developing skills that it has learned from watching his mother. When the calf begins to breach, we remove the guests from the water for their safety; by regulation we do not allow any guests to remain in the water when a whale begins any surface activity. Sometimes while in the water with a calf it can be easy to forget that these adorable little creatures are actually 12 to 14 feet long and anywhere from 1 to 3 tons. The calf continues to lob tail and chin breach while we watch from the tender.
Not minutes later the escort appears to push the mother and calf off towards our other tender, Challenger. On occasion an escort can push a female, keeping her moving when all she wants to do is rest, or he might become annoyed if he thinks our tender is taking the female’s attention away from him. In this case though, Lorenzo, captain of the Challenger, believes the female being annoyed both with the male and the tender first tail breached towards the male and then again towards Challenger, soaking Lorenzo and the boat. Laughter broke out across the Silver Bank as we watched the mother and calf swim away having very clearly communicated she no longer wanted us to hang around.
Not all encounters end with us getting in the water or even close to the whales. On Thursday we come across a mother and calf that were travelling through the coral heads. The calf appeared to be very young, with a flexible dorsal, dorsal crease and light in color. She wasn’t rushing off so we put a scout in the water. Quickly she disappeared with her calf and showed up a distance away, clearly not ready to interact with us; perhaps in a few weeks when the calf is older. In circumstances like this we never continue to work with the whale in hopes that in the future the mother may feel comfortable enough to let us have a closer look at her beautiful calf.
The week was amazing, and even with a few scattered showers and a quiet afternoon when we snorkeled around the wreck, the atmosphere on board stayed positive and vibrant. It seemed all week people were just grateful to take a break from the stresses of life and enjoy their time filled with nature, beauty and laughter.
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 team member Heather Reser and TCEXII Captain Jean-Francois Chabot