January 27 – February 3, 2018
Week One of our 28th Season
This year Aquatic Adventures embarks on its 28th year 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 be highlighting some of the various encounters and experiences of our guests and team members from their perspectives. We hope you enjoy following along!
Aquatic Adventures team member Brandt Brown:
It’s not easy to describe the feelings that arise when that time of the year rolls around and the whales season starts up again. A sense of excitement mixed with the anticipation of what lies ahead adds to an already existing level of eagerness. That all builds up until that first encounter presents itself and you slide into the water to discover just what the whales have in store for you.
The very first encounter of the season is always memorable, and this week was no exception. Shortly after the tender left the mothership a mother and calf were spotted just a few boat lengths away. As we shifted the engines to idle to observe how the mother would react, we noticed that as she came to the surface to blow she turned towards us! We sat quietly as the mother and her tiny calf swam right up to the boat to give everyone a close view. After passing right in front of our bow she moved a body length away before settling about 50 feet underwater. Everyone geared up with as little noise as possible and as we positioned ourselves above the patient mother we were treated to a great interaction with her calf as he came to the surface every 2-3 minutes to both catch some breaths as well as check us out. I’ll never get over the trust that must be present for a mother to allow her newborn calf to interact with us. What a way to start the season!
Aquatic Adventures team member Denise Lawrence:
As the 2018 season begins we have so many new guests on board that have never been in the water with a humpback whale; their energy and enthusiasm to see these gentle giants in the water is so exciting. Our first day on the water could not have been any more amazing. This week our first encounter was with a mother and calf, which is always such an incredible and emotional experience for everyone because they get to see first hand the love and affection that mom and calf have for one another. Something that is a personal favorite for me is to watch and feel the energy of the new guests when they come back on board the tender in amazement and an overwhelming sense of peace they have just felt with a whale. To top it off is to watch the tears of joy that come from the guest as they are so overwhelmed with what they have experienced this week.
Aquatic Adventures team member Joe Lamontagne:
One of our first in-water encounters of the week started with a pair of humpback whales sleeping below our nine guests and 1 crew member. From our position, the two whales laid motionless in the water column facing our direction. Every so often, the one I determined to be the female would move her pectoral fins from an outstretched position to alongside her body propelling her slightly backwards. During their breathing cycle, these two whales slowly drifted upwards closing the distance between us and them. During the last moments of their breathing cycles, the male surfaced for air first taking one breath before returning to the same depth as the female then together they ascended simultaneously to the surface. This ascend was truly amazing because of the whales’ orientation to us in the water. Both whales were facing towards us with their white pectoral fins pointed down and chins up; however, their bodies’ positions from our viewpoint placed us in the center of what looked like a mirrored image of one whale. I could tell many of the guests grew tense with both whales nearly at the water’s surface and slowly swimming closer to all of us. Upon reaching the surface, the female turned alongside all of us and slowly drifted out of view leaving us all exhilarated and wanting more moments like this.
Aquatic Adventures team member Lorenzo Martinez:
After a delay at the beginning of the week due to weather, we finally made it to the Silver Bank. On the first day we arrived at the Silver Bank, we were rewarded for our efforts “to be in contact with the whales”. But my most personal satisfaction was to see the expression of our guests, who for the first time having the opportunity of being in the water with whales, had a beautiful encounter with a female whale and her newborn calf. And, for others that have previously been to the Silver Bank, the joy in their eyes as memories surfaced.
But Mother Nature saved the best for last… after different encounters with mother and calf with an escort, pairs of whales for hours next to us, and at the last moment of the week a single whale approached our tender. The whale was either curious or just wanted to say hi, allowing us to get in the water and staying next to us.
And that was my personal reward… “give my guests a unique, unforgettable and a once in a lifetime experience ”
Aquatic Adventures team member/guest Heather Reser:
To borrow a phrase from Denise, “anything can happen at any time!”. Watching whales can be exciting, but in between those adrenaline packed moments, either in the water or from the tender, are slow times that can test the patience of even the most zen among us. Everyone becomes skilled at what Aquatic Adventures calls “Whale Waiting 101”. Searching the water in all directions for those tell-tale white spouts, seconds sometimes turn into minutes and even hours and it seems as if there’s a whale party happening somewhere that we weren’t invited to! But then it happens. Lorenzo calls out “At (direction) 2 o’clock, 3 boat lengths!” and suddenly all attention is refocused and energy levels rise. Photographing surface activity is a personal favorite of mine so this is when I grab my camera from the dry bag and hold it at the ready, prepared for whatever can happen next. This time that “whatever” was a breach from an adult whale! Exciting to see but challenging to capture, these one-and-done breaches remind us that we are watching unpredictable wild whales and no two encounters will ever be the same. This particular breach was surprising but I was ready enough that I actually snapped a few photos with the whale in the frame and in focus! Definitely a highlight of the otherwise slow day for all on the tender that afternoon and a rewarding photographic moment for me. The next day, our last morning on the bank, we spent time with a rambunctious calf that breached a dozen or more times and lobtailed her floppy flukes repeatedly! This scenario is less photographically challenging but just as exciting! Much like life, there are ups and downs out here on the Silver Bank. Anything can happen, and with a little patience and good energy you will be rewarded for enduring the down times in the most unexpected and sometimes magical ways.
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:
Thanks to all who have generously donated!
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Written by: Aquatic Adventures team members
Edited by: Heather Reser, Aquatic Adventures