Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Log
27 January – 3 February 2018
Air temperature: 75° - 78° F
Water temperature: 78° - 80°F
Visibility: 40 - 80 feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm/5mm full wetsuit & a windbreaker
Captain: Amanda Smith
2nd Captain: Christy Weaver
Engineer: Rob Smith
Chef: Brynne Rardin
Chef: Sarah Pearson
Guide/Driver: Alex Brett
Lisa & Jim, Karin & Larry, Dexter, Julie, Gwen & John, Nicole, Ross, Nicolas, Allan, Christian, Tammy & Tony and Franziska, George & Beate.
Our Snorkel Site
Saturday – Monday: Ocean World Marina, Dominican Republic
Tuesday – Friday: Silver Bank, Dominican Republic
Unseasonably high winds kept the boat at the dock until Monday night, so our guests amused themselves with reading, watching movies and generally relaxing as the inclement weather kept us inside. As soon as the rain stopped some of our guests adventured out on a city tour of Puerto Plata, and then Monday night conditions were calmed enough to depart.
Our chaseboats were deployed very quickly after arriving in the Silver Bank and no sooner were we out than we came across two very relaxed adult whales that would log on the surface whilst they rebuilt up the oxygen in their system before slowly descending below. There they would sleep, resting one side of their brains at a time allowing themselves consciousness to breathe. Every eighteen minutes they would slowly ascend in front of our snorkelers spend a few minutes above water, moving slowly as they took breath and descended to repeat the cycle. For three hours this continued until eventually they started to stir and moved further than we could track – off on their next adventure.
In for lunch and quickly back out as the afternoon was passing and we very quickly came across a mother and calf, with an escort. The calf was very young, with a good deal of white across the body, an indication of youth and a dorsal fin that was yet to be fully erect; still partly curled under from birth. The calf would peak out from beneath the mother and when she was comfortable, she would swim up to the surface and take her breaths before returning to nestle between the pectorals of the adult female. When the mother came to the surface she would move the calf a little ways before settling into another breath cycle for the young. Although small the calf appeared confident and not at all anxious around our snorkelers.
One of the most memorable encounters was the following day when we were invited in to a very calm pair of sleeping whales. Surfacing every fourteen minutes to begin with it ended with the male remaining on the surface whilst the female rested below. In relatively calm water this allowed the snorkelers to see up close the resting cetacean. His resting partner surfaces and the two remain almost motionless taking in a great lungful of air to complete the gas exchange and expel the CO2 before resuming their repose. It proved to be a close encounter of a most amazing kind.
Our topside activity was light this week but was not without its highlights. As we were waiting to track our next encounter, out of the blue (as usual), an adult humpback breached high into the air, to shouts and exclamations from crew and guests alike. No sooner had the water displacement calmed, than another breach, less than one hundred feet from the boat. Once that display was over we were treated to yet another. The power of this behaviour is immense; the force obvious from the amount of water displaced. No-one truly know they breach, to know that would be to know the mind of a humpback, but suffice to say despite the energy involved it looks like fun!
A breach was the result of our final in water encounter. A single adult had provided some topside entertainment for a short while and as we waited for the whale to surface we were suddenly aware of a small section of bubbling water. This was the whale’s heads up to us that she was below. We found her resting and had to watch the white of her pectoral fin to keep from drifting away from her. Very slowly she altered her position below and it became apparent that she was starting to slowly to ascend to the surface. Her movement was barely perceptible to begin with. Eventually she surfaces very close to the snorkelers and slowly swims away. Visibility was not great and so even though we were able to track her, once she had descended again she became almost completely invisible. So it was quite endearing to realise that she was blowing individual bubbles that slowly ascended to the surface, just one at a time. Still we could not see her, until with a quick flash of white it became apparent she was moving until she broke forth from the water in an enormous breach. It was a great end to the trip.
We enjoyed a comfortable trip back to the Marina, enjoying an unusual Friday night dinner onboard due to the weather we encountered earlier in the week. By the time we reached the dock most guests were tucked away dreaming of their humpback whale encounters.