February 11 – February 18, 2023
Week Four 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!
If there was a time to give the Captain of the Turks & Caicos Explorer II some credit to his abilities, the arrival back to port last week was it. With high winds and large seas, we had to time our arrival back to land so that we had daylight to work by. Coming into the harbor the tenders being towed disappeared between the twelve foot wave crests and the Explorer surfed down the waves. Captain JF maneuvered with great precision. Bringing the vessel about, head into wind, he held position so the tenders could be released before driving into the marina. The winds persisted into the following day so the decision was made to leave during first light Sunday morning with our new guests on board and well rested. Arriving at the Silver Bank is a welcomed calm from the high winds and variable seas. Ten minutes out from the mooring area, JF is forced to bring the Turks & Caicos Explorer II to a halt. There is a small rowdy group crossing the bow of the boat. Four whales, one likely a female and three males competing for her, are breathing heavy and throwing themselves into an aggressive display of surface activity just fifty feet from the vessel. Adrift, the crew are on high alert, giving reports to the captain on the whereabouts of the rowdy group as they pop up a hundred feet to the starboard, then moments later fifty feet off the port quarter, then again by the tenders drifting to the stern. The guests watch in amazement, taking pictures and asking questions about what they are seeing. In the distance other whales are surfacing with great blows and breaching. Finally the rowdy group moves on and we are able to get underway again. It seems as though the season is really ramping up!
The first time out on the tenders, the winds are still rather high, making the blows dissipate quickly and harder to locate. This is nothing new for the Aquatic Adventures team and we soon locate some whales and are in the water with a mother, calf and escort. The day consists of mostly flybys, quick but beautiful glimpses of life as a humpback whale.
That afternoon we were traveling through the coral heads when we spot a cluster of floats. Jumping into the water, we soon found a massive clump of ghost netting had been tangled up into the coral head. Ghost netting is misplaced fisherman gear, usually broken off during high winds and lost at sea. Humpback whales among other species are at high risk of getting entangled in these nets, causing them lacerations, starvation and sometimes death. We took the time out of our afternoon to carefully cut free the netting and bring it back to the mothership where it will stay for the week until we return back to port and properly dispose of it. We hope that today we accumulated some good karma and made a positive impact on the marine ecosystem that we appreciate so much.
The next morning guests woke up to find a small, red heart shaped card slipped under their guest room door “Whale….You Be My Valentine?”. Today is the most romantic day of the year and what better place to spend it in than the mating and calving grounds of the North Atlantic humpback whale. The winds have finally died down and the ocean looks like glass. Not long after we are out on the water we have our first encounter. It’s a SINGER! The first of the season. Could this get any more romantic? Diving into the water we are suddenly very aware of the whale’s presence. Low creaks and high squeals of the humpback song surround us. Following the sounds, we find a whale, head pointing to the ground to help reverberate the song. The closer we get the louder the song and soon we can feel the vibrations through our bodies. All else is quiet as we float, relaxed at the surface fully taking in the beauty of this moment.
On the northwest side of the bank, the other tender is with sleepers. Two whales resting near the bottom, we passively rest on the surface waiting to see what they will do. Slowly rising up, they come for a breath directly in front of the guests, then, they stay there! Hovering just ten feet away, pointing directly towards them. Every few moments the guests are being rained on by the blow of these magnificent animals. It’s oily, it’s stinky but no one seems to mind, in fact most are embracing it. Heart beats are racing as the guests can’t believe their luck. To be up close and personal, on the whales’ terms, it is a humbling experience to say the least.
It’s the last day on the Silver Bank and the high winds have returned. But no matter what encounters we receive today, everyone is grateful for the time that they have had here and the very special Valentine’s Day gifts the whales have bestowed.
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