January 28 – February 4, 2023 

Week Two of our 32nd Season

This year Aquatic Adventures embarks on its 32nd 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!

Old world sailors have always been very superstitious. It was thought that having women on board a vessel would bring bad luck to the crew and somewhere down the line the banana was added to that “bad luck” list. Although time has passed and we have grown to understand that these don’t truly bring you good or bad luck, we here at Aquatic Adventures have our own superstitions. First and foremost is the “Lucky Cookie”. Our chef makes a fresh batch of cookies every morning; chocolate chip, shortbread, oats and cranberry, you name it. Every morning we board the tenders and hand out the lucky cookies. “You don’t have to have a whole, you don’t even have to have a half, the luck will come with just a crumb”.

It may seem like an unorthodox good luck charm, but it seems to do the trick! This week, moments after the lucky cookies were handed out (most eat a whole, not a crumb) the blows of humpback whales began to appear all around. The first encounter of the week was a male and female resting 50 feet or so below the surface. The male circled the female in a playful way, the female responding by placing herself vertical in the water and turning one way, then the other. As we looked on we thought this could be the beginning of a dancing duo or the preliminary stages to mating. The display didn’t last as the two whales calmly swam away and settled again for a rest. Meanwhile the other tender was in the water with a mother and calf. The calf appeared to be quite young, surprisingly though the mother was incredibly comfortable with us, allowing the group to float close by as the calf came up for multiple breathing cycles. We were able to get into the water with this pair three times, each time spending more time with the calf and watching it as it played around the coral head. What luck! 

Halfway through the week, some of the guests were discussing historical sailing superstitions, one of which was the luck or better known as, the bad luck imposed on a vessel when a banana is brought on board. Without knowledge of the superstitious nature of the captain, the guests thought they would try and test the theory, sneaking a banana onto Challenger’s bimini top. (Photo: Shelisa Payne)

That morning the whales seem to be unsettled, traveling so much our tenders couldn’t keep up. Rowdy groups, multiple males competing for a female, darted on and off the Silver Bank making them difficult to observe. Mothers and calves moved about avoiding the traffic and at some points just vanished without a trace. What was going on? Could the behavior be explained by the oncoming full moon next week? Could the high winds have something to do with it? What could explain this seemingly sudden change in behavior? When Lorenzo, the captain of Challenger, came rolling down a wave, the banana also came rolling from the bimini and fell with a loud thud on the deck! None can say if the whale behavior was due to the unlucky bimini banana, but what we can confirm is once Lorenzo leapt into action and launched the sunburnt banana overboard, the luck began to change. Soon the whales were back and the incredible encounters continued.

The most memorable encounter of the week was the appearance of a juvenile whale. The juvenile is not as large as a full grown male or female and is usually found alone or on the outskirts of a rowdy group, observing, as they are not large enough to compete. This juvenile, however, was seen alongside a mother and calf. It was being rather aggressive, charging the pair and slashing its tail. Speculation led us to believe that perhaps this juvenile recognized the female, perhaps even, this female is its mother and the juvenile was showing signs of jealously towards the new offspring. It’s difficult to know anything for certain. Finally, the young whale charged the boat and then followed in its wake as the tender drove off. A little while later the same whale followed the second tender, surfacing closely, like a dolphin playing with a vessel’s wake. The whale seemed most interested in the bubbles created by the propellers, so slowing the tender down we decided to hop into the water and see how it would react. The driver kept the boat close and circled the group as the juvenile followed closely behind. It must have circled the group four or five times before getting bored and moving on, but it was exhilarating to watch it play all around us for those few very special moments.  

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, Melanie Müller, Peter Jose and Shelisa Payne