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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
21 - 28 March 2015
Air temperature: 78° - 82°
Water temperature: 78° - 79°
Visibility: 20 - 40 feet
Captain: AMANDA SMITH
2nd Captain: LOWEL O’ROURKE
Engineer: ROB SMITH
Chef: AILSA KELLY
Guide: DAVE TUNNICLIFFE
Stewardess: EVA ROMAN CASTILLO
Trip Leaders – Nick & Kathy, from Ocean First Divers, Boulder, Colorado. Charlie & Carol, Debbie, Stephen, Sherrie, Karen, Sue, Paula, Ethan, Catherine, Heather, Alex & Jenni, Reese & Mile.
Silver Bank, Dominican Republic
We were granted a very calm crossing out to the Silver Bank this week and as we crossed the Bank to our mooring we saw our first humpback whales breaching, pec and tail slapping. Accompanying us this week were Ocean First Divers from Boulder, Colorado. All were very excited at the prospect of joining these magnificent creatures in their own environment and so it was with a great sense of adventure that we set out for our first afternoon of humpback whale interactions.
Mothers with their calves traversed the Bank, chaperoned by escorts and sometimes an additional challenger. Whilst the males tussled behind mother and calf the latter became excitable and began a long series of breaches. For over an hour the calf swam from side to side of the mother and would then hurtle from the water to the air defying gravity.
More sedately, another calf would swim with the mother, but when surfacing made a point of opening its mouth. For what reason we did not establish, but time and time again the calf would rise to the surface, turn on its side and open its mouth to its full extent. This gave us the uncommon opportunity to view the baleen plates that at this time of year are so often hidden.
Tuesday seems to be Valentine day and this week was no different. A female showed favour to one of our tenders – Predator and she hung inverted immediately below the tender. There was no hesitation for our guests to get into the water and watch as she twisted and twirled, rolled and whirled, eagerly observed by our snorkelers. This behaviour lasted until two males, who until then were simply swimming around the edge, decided to crash the party and moved the female along.
This female was small and appeared to be younger, but she was not shy when she danced for us and our other tender of guests, got the opportunity to experience the same whale behaving similarly a short while later. Entering the water to watch what we initially thought were sleeping whales we soon discovered that the female was more interested in a dance, and so she performed in front of our snorkelers, swimming away from the group to return just moments later to delight us again.
On another occasion, we encountered a mother, calf and escort, all moving at a very slow speed, stopping intermittently to rest and then continuing on their way. It was during one of these periods of rest that we were able to enter the water and observe the close relationship between mother and calf. It is clearly a very tactile relationship and the calf in this instance would roll across the mother’s nose, sliding forward and then sideways as the female moved. The escort remained at the side of the other two whales, breathing at the same interval, but chilled and relaxed with our presence.
Seeing a humpback logging in repose at the surface always creates excitement. We were very happy to see this during the week, in this instance a mother with calf. The mother was one that we recognised from earlier in the season, not only from her behaviour but also from her distinctive dorsal fin. Almost completely rounded it seemed as though she had suffered injury to that area in the past, or she may simply just been blessed with a smooth dorsal. She also made a habit of ascending from her rest, tail first so that the initial sighting of her would be the spine leading to the flukes followed by her dorsal. The calf was playful and was comfortable to examine the curious small creatures that entered the water close by. We watched as the calf moved around the mother, both of them remaining on the surface. At the time she chose to leave she turned to face the line of snorkelers and dropped down suspended, tail up close to the surface and hung there for a few moments before righting herself and swimming, with her calf straight beneath us.
She was soon accompanied by an escort and the encounter changed at this point with the mother beginning a series of energetic breaches, which we were delighted to observe from the tender, leaving the guests filled with excitement.
We leave this week with the knowledge that we have just one more charter before the end of the season. Join us next week to see what magnificent farewell the humpbacks have planned for us.