February 10 – February 17, 2024 

Week 4 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!

Here we are, beginning week four on the Silver Bank. The winds are still high and coming from the south which makes the seas slightly more difficult to work with, but with careful boarding we are able to get out on the tenders the first day out. The entire day we battled the southern winds, and although we were able to get into the water with a few whales, the sediment was stirred up enough to make the visibility less than ideal. However, the next day the winds had come down slightly, and visibility was better. There also seemed to be many whales in the area. Just after lunch we have a mother, calf and escort right by the main ship. While one of the crew members went to unhook the tender, which is tied up 30 feet behind the main ship, the whales started to circle them. Our tender Challenger was first in with the three whales and that was around 1:30 in the afternoon. We continued to swap out tenders as the sun moved across the sky, and before we knew it the clock read 4:30! We had been with this same mother, calf and escort for three hours. They were curious and calm, never moving more than a few body lengths at a time. Eventually the whales made it up to the thickest area of coral which made the encounters even that much more special. We have a special guest on board this week as well. One of our guests who has been here many times before is on board with her entire family to celebrate her 70th birthday. So as a special treat, we sent in a scout and just her to enjoy some intimate time with the whales. After three hours of encounters with these whales, we decided to call in another company to enjoy these whales that had given us such a memorable afternoon!

The next day the winds had come down to barely a breeze. It was hot and the seas were calm. How quickly the conditions can change out here is always surprising. The calm seas can make it more difficult to spot whales as there is less spray during their blows and the white wash from their surfacing is minimal. But today, there seem to be whales everywhere! Breaching adults, mothers and calves, sleepers, take your pick. Early morning we came across two adult whales fin slapping and dancing with each other.

Once they had calmed down, the guests got into the water to watch them interact; within moments though a third whale, the challenger, showed up to try and push the escort off. Because we were already in the water, we were able to watch the beginning of what was about to become a very competitive group. With the escort desperately trying to keep its position next to the female and the challenger doing all it can to show the female how strong it is, we watched with bated breath. The whales eventually moved off too quickly for us to keep up so we will never know who the victor was in that story. 

One whale was sighted spy hopping for several minutes until we got closer. On approach, we found two whales and then a third when we entered the water for a quick fly by. In the distance, we could hear the distinct sounds of a singer. Later, when we got back for lunch, the other tender Challenger reported getting into the water with a singer; could this be the same whale that we heard from afar? The song can be heard for many miles and so it is a possibility. There is one more day on the water this week, but for now we come back to the main ship for happy hour and to celebrate our guest’s birthday in style.

Our last day out on the water the winds had calmed to next to nothing. The ocean was as flat as glass and instead of seeing the whales blow or catching a glimpse of the wash along its dorsal, the best way of spotting the whales was to listen. While quiet on the tender, blows could be heard all over the bank, like an orchestra. We came across two sleepers that, time and time again, came up nice and close to the guests in the water. One of the sleepers, we think the female, had entanglement scars, which unfortunately is common; but this whale had clearly had her fluke wrapped up because of the abnormal chunks missing from her right flank. Another whale that day also showed some clear scarring but this time of a prop hit. We were able to get an ID of this whale from the Center for Coastal Studies: Watchtower.

After spending the day with these two in the hot sun of the Dominican Republic, the guests were happy and excited to relax, have a good meal and catch some rest before the transit home.

A week spent on the Silver Bank with whales inspires many creative projects, including this beautiful video created by one of our guests this week, Nick Volkers. Enjoy!

Humpback Whales of the Silver Bank from Nick Volkers on Vimeo.

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 and (video link) Nick Volkers