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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
18 - 25 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
Video Pro: JESSICA POLK
Chef: CHRISTY BROWN
Guide: MICHAEL WEINBAUM
Kelley & Clay, Susanne & Mana, Suzi & Andreas, Sigrid & Rainer, Andrea, Silvia, Karin, Diethardt, Cathrine & Kim, Julie, Frances, Sue & Terri
Sunday - Thursday: Silver Bank, Dominican Republic
New friends and old were amongst those that joined us on Saturday afternoon full of excitement and anticipation for the prospect of whale encounters that lay ahead of us. Briefings were delivered, supper served and guests retired, and at 11.30pm we departed for the Silver Bank.
A long roll was the sea state for the trip out, but this did not hinder the thrill of our guests as we approached the Silver Bank and started to experience the humpback whales, doing that which humpback whales do.
The rowdy groups that we have seen so far this season have been great; however what we have been missing is a truly epic group of males in pursuit of a female. This week that situation was remedied. Nine males pursued one female. Some of those males remained on the periphery whilst three or four were involved in a ruckus of huge proportions. Tail lobbing preceded pec slapping at high speed and where it had taken over twenty minutes to get out to what was clearly a high energy encounter, the humpbacks then led our tender back from whence they came and on some more in a matter of minutes. The males’ vitality and vigour was evidenced further when our cameras were extended in to the water, under the tender to investigate further what they were up to, away from the surface. Flukes were thrown to the side and pectorals slashed through the water wholeheartedly; leaving a trail of bubbles from the surface that left some of their movements disguised.
Our first in water encounter of the week involved one of the loudest singers I believe I have ever heard. Conditions were perfect; flat calm seas, clear waters and the midday sun. We had already heard the singer through the hydrophone as we were looking for whales and instantly knew that he was close by. Invited in by another boat, we quickly discovered that not only could we clearly hear his lament, as that is exactly what it sounds like, above the surface, but much louder when floating above, and to the extent that it can be felt through your core when he hits the lower timbres of the song. Every ten minutes he would rise to the surface, swim a short distance and then descend back to his head low hover to continue singing. For over an hour we enjoyed the majestic ballad of this mighty mammal until he decided to stop, lob his head out of the water and then swim off toward the horizon.
The weather we enjoyed continued to lend itself to a mother and calf encounter that we experienced one of our mornings where a very calm female with her young logged on the surface enjoying the heat of the sun. She would allow us close on the surface to her and her little one, periodically opening her eye to check us out. The calf would switch from one side of the mother to the other and back and when they did eventually sink, in their slumber, to mid water, the calf would swim up to the surface past our snorkelers every few minutes to take a breath of air. It was a beautiful experience with the calf plump, healthy and full of life.
The weather was a big part of our week – in particular the rain. The disadvantage was that it limited our visibility and restricted our outings, however, for a time it also brought a mother, calf and escort alongside the main vessel, where to our complete delight they proceeded to spy hop just 5 metres away from the boat. Repeatedly they would bring the very tip of their rostrum out of the water as if testing the nature of the torrential rain that fell from the sky.
When the better weather prevailed and we were able to get out we swam again with a mother and calf, but this calf had a far more mischievous demeanour at the time, and would swim around the guests and spend more time on the surface. As a result, it was a more energetic encounter with the calf considering our guests as her personal play mates – not that anyone was complaining there!
The week was ended, between some strong rain bursts, with a combination of rowdy action and mothers and calves. Our final afternoon brought forth a delightful mother with her calf. She appeared quite young, so maybe this was her first calf and as a result she seemed a little more anxious when we attempted to get into the water with her. The calf seemed eager to play, but the mother whilst perfectly content for us to observe from our tender, was uneasy with us when we shared the ocean with her. We saw them a couple of times in the water, but were delighted to three breaches from mum and at least six or seven from the calf – the last couple only 10 metres from the boat. The mother would log on the surface for a good time and then swim forward, arching her peduncle and raising her flukes high in to the air before disappearing beneath the surface, and for me, her most endearing quality was as she returned to the surface in the reverse of her descent. It would become apparent that she was about to ascend as the gorgeous aqua marine of her fins would show beneath the surface, but rather than her rostrum appear the very tips of her barnacled flukes would materialise until her entire tail was evident and then she would reveal her blowhole to breathe.
The crossing back to Ocean World Marina incorporated a following sea with a large swell and so our sea legs built up from the week were very useful. Back at the dock we settled and prepared ourselves for our weekly cheese & wine party where our encounters were discussed in full, following the opportunity to reflect on our trip back in.
It is hard to believe that our next charter will be our last whale charter for the 2017 season and so it is with a mixture of excitement with what the charter holds, the prospect of returning to Turks & Caicos to dive with our friends there, along with the sadness that these will be the last humpbacks we will swim with during 2017. Check back next week to see what these delightful creatures give us as a finale this season.