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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
25 February – 4 March 2017
Air temperature: 70° - 80° F
Water temperature: 79° F
Visibility: 50 – 80 feet
Captain: AMANDA SMITH
2nd Captain: CHRISTY WEAVER
Engineer: ROB SMITH
Photo Pro: CONOR FERRIN
Chef: CHRISTY BROWN
Stewardess: EVA ROMAN CASTILLO
Caroline & Jule, Martin, Jay, Maryjke, Diane & Gary, Karen & Dallas, Diane, Bernard, Hedrick, Sandy & David, Barbara, Chrissea, Lauren & Scott
Sunday - Thursday: Silver Bank, Dominican Republic
Scott & Lauren were the hosts of this week’s charter. Friends made through travel invited and bringing their own friends to share in this adventure. Introductions made, briefings delivered and preparations made for the crossing to the Silver Bank and at midnight we set off to see the humpback whales.
As the sun rose, we entered the Silver Bank and immediately started seeing whales moving around the Bank. As we maneuvered the coral heads to approach our mooring, the guests were entertained by the activities of mothers and their calves, rowdy males and single adults.
Once the yacht was moored our preparations to set our tenders into the water took place and in no time, we had briefed the logistics, filled our guests stomachs and set out to see what experiences that the humpbacks were going to offer this week.
Mothers and calves are always great to watch, in particular when the female is teaching her young. Our first afternoon was filled with a mother showing her calf how to spy hop. She would raise just the tip of her rostrum out of the water to display the delightful white striations on her vented pleats. The calf would copy what he had seen and lift his pure white chin plate out of the water and then proceed to spin gently around. This he repeated for most of the afternoon, with the mother alternating between spy hopping and logging in the sun. Once this couple ventured away from the Bank we were then accompanied back to the yacht by another calf that breached about thirty times.
We also had the opportunity to observe mother and calf from in the water. As the mother rested the calf would swim up to the surface every three minutes to breathe, circling around the mother’s nose and returning to nestle under her rostrum.
Sleepers, were the order for the remainder of the day. Three different pairs allowed us to share their slumber with them. For one of the couples, the female would stay resting for twenty-five minutes at a time, whilst the male was more active and would swim around and disappear for a few minutes at a time before returning to the female and settling for a short while. As they both came to the surface they would pass close to our snorkelers with eyes shut and just half of their brains shut down to allow the other side sufficient consciousness to breathe. For two hours this cycle continued until cocktail hour called the guests back to the yacht and an evening of Peach Fizz, conversation, supper and a slideshow of whale anatomy and behaviour.
A number of mothers, with their calves, allowed for us to spend some time in the water with them. One such mother hung in just fifteen feet of water, as the calf nestled under her chin plate and then swam around the mother’s rostrum to the great delight of the guests. In another instance, the calf changed behaviour when introduced to the snorkelers. To begin with, the calf simply swam around the mother’s rostrum whilst she rested below, but as our guests were introduced in to the mix, the calf became curious and sought out the line of observers. Turning, twisting and rolling, she watched our line of guests as they floated between pectoral fin and rostrum of the mother below. For the entire breath cycle of the mother the calf lingered with our eager onlookers. This lasted until the mother was ready to rise slowly to the surface to breathe, accompanied by an escort male, who decided that the mother need not rest, and nudged her along by jabbing her flukes with his rostrum and so the three of them moved away.
The dancing of a male and female is always a delight to see and this week we were again privileged to swim with a male and female engaged in a valentine for a short while. Spy hopping and languid slapping of the pectoral fins are a sure sign together with swimming around the tender or observing snorkelers. As the courtship developed a pair of rowdy males decided to join the encounter and soon a rowdy group has reemerged and the four stepped up the energy levels and cut a swathe across the Bank.
Our final day, brought a variety of in water encounters. Starting with a mother and calf, nicknamed Mrs Potts & Chip, allowed us to watch as the calf playfully rolling and peck slapping in full view of the snorkelers. As the encounter was settled, all the passengers on both of our boats had a chance to swim with this delightful pair until a couple of mischievous juvenile humpbacks burst through to see what was going on and the mother chose to move the calf to somewhere a little more relaxed. We did not come across them again, but it did lead us to another interesting encounter.
Two adults appeared near a coral head, moving slowly. As they dived beneath the surface, one flipped its flukes into the air and with a languorous flick disappeared below, but not so deep that we were able to see her brilliant white pectoral fin from the surface. She spotted the tender and rose very slowly immediately beneath us, just inches from the hull, but never touching and laying width ways. As she swam forward, she blew and then she swam backward to blow again on the other side of the tender. She proceeded to spy hop and roll under the boat, still not coming into contact at any point. Eventually the guests were able to get in the water and enjoy her movement from the ocean. We drifted for a while with this lovely female hovering close below. During this time the male hung out beneath her coming to the surface to breathe and show the badly scarred and damaged dorsal fin. In time, the fascination with the tender passed and they moved on.
Our last afternoon was spent with another mother and calf. Today seemed to be the turn of the playful calf and from the surface we watched as the calf artfully swam amongst the guests, twisting and turning but touching no-one. From then on, pectoral fins were raised and the flukes elevated with great care and finesse. The afternoon passed with our tenders taking turns to put our snorkelers in the water to enjoy this encounter.
Our departure from the Bank, was accompanied by our friends as we bod them farewell and even out of the Silver Bank we encountered a single male slapping the surface of the water, as if waving us goodbye.
We were back to Puerto Plata for the late afternoon, a cocktail party and a night out in Cofresi and reflection upon the awesome week with the humpback whales.