January 20 – January 27, 2024 

Week 1 of our 33rd Season

This year Aquatic Adventures embarks on its 33rd 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!

Standing in the wheelhouse is the Captain, a crew member and a guest from Cape Cod. The guest is telling us how he spends his free time off the coast of the Cape taking guests to watch for whales from his 36’ centre console. Without missing a beat, he spots a whale just off the forward port side of the vessel. The captain pulls back on the throttles, then out of the blue, displaying the infamous spinning head breach, comes our whale. We can’t help ourselves but to cheer in excitement and share a round of high fives! What a welcome to the Silver Bank! Before we even boarded the tenders that afternoon, whales were spotted close by, surrounding the main ship. The excitement continued as we pulled off the main ship and had some of our first encounters of the season. Escort (tender) watched a rambunctious calf doing chin breach after chin breach and after they entered the water to see two sleeping whales, Challenger (tender) got into the water with a cooperative mother and calf that logged at the surface and stayed for long periods of time. We also achieved our first fluke shot of a female with a #5 category fluke. In addition to this whale being an all black #5, it also showed evidence of entanglement, all of which should make this whale easier to identify. (Stay tuned for next week’s report where we share her ID)

Humpback calf breaching

The winds began to pick up Monday but everyone on board is in a great mood from the incredible encounters the day before. Not being able to board the tenders in over 25 knots of wind, time is spent going over videos and photos from the day before, playing card games, watching presentations and enjoying fabulous food from our chef Miguel. The days continue to blow by quite literally. Winds are sustained around 30 knots gusting to 36. Tuesday is yet another day to watch surface activity from the main ship. The crew is consistently checking the forecast and current conditions so as soon as the weather permits we will be out in the tenders. Wednesday the white caps are still on the crest of every wave and the ship swings on her mooring dramatically but the winds have dropped below 30 knots and the forecast shows that it will continue to drop into the afternoon. So we wait. There are still two days left for us to again get into the water with some humpbacks and as we have seen before, sometimes these are the times where the unexpected, best encounters can happen. So we wait, with enthusiastic anticipation. 

Thursday, the tender weaves its way through the coral heads that start at eighty feet deep and breach the surface. There are two forty-five foot humpback adults just thirty feet from our starboard quarter. One after another they take a last breath before diving below the surface. We can just see the remnants of the spot where they went down and our captain seems to have a good idea of where they may be resting so he sends in the scout. Almost immediately after hitting the water she raises her arm into the air, signifying that the whales are resting just below and we should enter the water as well. Forty feet below us the whales are resting, nose to nose and tails towards the surface. Having that moment to watch as they rest in their domain, we are witnesses to pure nature. It’s a truly humbling moment and the thought of winds disappear into the past. We were able to track the same two whales on two more of their dives, as the tender driver expertly watches their behavior and knows exactly where to drop us next for the best view. Completely worth the wait.

Humpback whale slapping its pectoral fin on the water

Lucky cookies!

What a morning! The same sleeping whales from days before were right next to the main ship when we departed with the tenders. Escort got into the water with them twice before we got a call over the radio from Challenger, our sister tender. They had just gotten out of the water with a cooperative mother and calf. Our tenders joined up and spent the morning taking turns in the water. The calf we determined was a young male, perhaps four to six weeks old. Accompanied by an escort, the three whales were calm and friendly allowing us to float nearby on the surface while the calf took multiple breaths and checked out the people in the water. We are likely the first humans this calf has seen and hopefully we made a good impression.

As we sail away from the mating and calving grounds we can still see whales breaching in the distance, waiting for us to return in a few days with a new group of guests. Welcome to the beginning of our 2024 season on the Silver Bank!

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: Pablo Iacopi, Leslie Rapp and Michael Sandell