February 24 – March 2, 2024 

Week 6 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!

Sunday afternoon out on the tenders there are whales everywhere! The mother and calf that we get into the water with do not seem interested and are not settling. Sometimes when this happens, we will leave the pair alone in hopes that the next time we come across them, perhaps they will remember us and be calm enough to hang out with us for awhile. True to form, the very next day we come across the same pair and she becomes much more comfortable with us. It takes a little while to achieve this level of respect and trust but once the tender driver and scout have worked it out with her, she can stay for hours, which she did. Staying close to the surface, her calf comes up and circles the guests, spinning and flailing its pectorals around as if performing a ballet act.

Later that afternoon we get a call from the other tender about a mother and calf close to the coral and the main ship. This pair seems to rest for fifteen minutes or so but when they come to the surface they hang there, logging right in front of the guests for many moments. It’s the encounters like this where you get the time to see the details of the whale. The great eye which peers through your soul, the barnacles lining the serrated edge of her fluke, the enormity of the blow hole and how far it protrudes the surface before spraying the top of your head with droplets of seawater (and mucus!). Three days in a row, we’ve come to know this mother and calf, often in the same location and displaying the same behavior, although every day the calf seems to get a little more frisky.

On Tuesday we came across a behavior we all recognized. “Clamp” from week 2 was back, giving away her presence by her wiggling tail behavior which we later discovered is an indicator of her kick feeding abilities up in the Gulf of Maine. “Clamp” has now been here for at least four weeks with a calf and soon will be thinking about heading back up north to the feeding grounds; but we hope she stays a bit longer as her behaviors offer up some incredible photographic opportunities. 

Thursday, the frisky calf is back! Around nine thirty in the morning we come across our mother and calf pair again, this time in a different location. The calf was playing at the surface, fin slapping, spinning around and logging with its ventral side to the sky, which allowed us to sex this calf as a male due to the lack of a hemispherical lobe near the genital slit that all females possess. As we were watching the calf play, an escort came to join the pair, but he didn’t stay long as the mother made it very clear with a tail breach in his direction that she wasn’t interested. She then took off with her calf towards the coral heads again where we met up with her moments later. This time she rested at the bottom while the calf played at the surface; guests floated at the surface as the calf came closer and closer, playing just as before.

This behavior continued until about twelve thirty when the highlight of the encounter happened. Again, floating passively at the surface, the guests looked on as the calf played. But then the calf, with all its might, launched itself out of the water doing a full spinning head breach, followed by mum and then again the calf breached! Watch the video on our Facebook page here. It was a spectacular day with an incredible encounter! You really can’t ask for much more than that. 

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, Patrick O’Flaherty