February 25 – March 4, 2023
Week Six 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!
The forecast this week is one that the crew and guests here both enjoy but are also disappointed with. The first few days, the winds are supposed to reduce to under five knots. With winds like these, the seas are flat which makes the tenders easier to climb into and the transit to the Silver Bank fairly smooth. Whales can be easier to see as they aren’t hidden by the swells, but without a breeze to cool the tender passengers down, it makes for very warm days. This also seems to affect the whales. It would appear as though the whales like to stay underwater deeper and longer during times of low wind. We think this is because as a mammal, the whales can overheat and it’s possible for them to get a sun burn. Compared to their feeding grounds up in the North Atlantic, the Dominican waters must feel like a hot bath or sunny vacation, causing them to easily overheat. Perhaps that’s what the breaching is all about on windy days, a way to cool down. Regardless, even with a very warm week there is still plenty of action.
As predicted, our crossing was very smooth, allowing us to arrive to the Silver Bank earlier than usual. Guests had time to enjoy their breakfast while looking out over the water and seeing whales in the distance. By the time the tenders were departing in the afternoon, the whales had moved in closer to the coral heads and three in particular, a female with escort and challenger, were directly under the Turks & Caicos Explorer II. These whales kept under the swinging vessel as the tenders were loaded with guests; if it wasn’t for the fact that they could move a few boat lengths away in just moments, it almost seemed more convenient to send the guests off the stern of the bigger boat. Finally, the tender was clear of the circling whales and departed for the afternoon, but of course didn’t go far as the whales joined them and circled. The guests were able to get into the water and enjoy what we call a “circling of the wagon”, the whales swimming around the guests, getting closer the tighter the group is. What a great way to start off the week!
Expectations are high, thanks to our circling whales as we head out for the second day. But as the Aquatic Adventure team is well aware of and tries to portray to the guests, this is nature and nothing is predictable. The morning of the second day has some slack periods; with the hot sun and low winds the team decides to have an early lunch with the hopes of a busier and longer afternoon. GOOD CHOICE! Out for the afternoon the whales are at it again! This time a single female making quite the scene gets our attention. She is tail breaching, blowing bubble streams and throwing herself around, seemingly all by herself. Apparently this female is ready to find a mate. Soon, males from all directions start to join her and she has become the catalyst to a rowdy group within the coral heads. Because the water is so calm, the guests are able to watch from the safety of the tender as the males throw themselves at each other underwater, fighting for their chance to be the escort. The female has other ideas and has cozied up next to the tender, giving our tender “Escort” a most literal name. This goes on all afternoon; high energy activity with lots of breaching for wonderful topside photography.
The week continued on with fair weather and plenty of whale action. Every week we have guests make requests for certain behaviors and almost always one of those requests are for a solitary whale, singing. Now, singers aren’t entirely uncommon, but they are not guaranteed every week and if you are lucky enough to get into the water with a singing whale, you must remember that you are part of a very small group of people who have ever had the vibrations of the humpback whale’s song course throughout your body. Guests this week, however, got their wish and were lucky enough to encounter not just one but two singers. The first we spent multiple breathing cycles with and each time the whale came up for a breath, it would surface closer and closer to the waiting guests above. The second singer was on the last day in the afternoon, right before we were heading back to the main ship to finish our adventure for the week. Some of these singers are so loud that you can hear them through the hull of the tender, or if you are on the large ship, as was reported by the crew remaining on board, through the hull on the first deck! What a fabulous way to say so long to our magnificent friends.
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: Patrick O’Flaherty and Chris Garbacz