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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Log
10 - 17 February 2018
Air temperature: 75° - 78° F
Water temperature: 78°F
Visibility: 40 - 80 feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm/5mm full wetsuit & a windbreaker
Captain: Amanda Smith
2nd Captain: Christy Weaver
Engineer: Alex Brett
Chef: Brynne Rardin
Chef: Sarah Pearson
Photo Pro: Conor Ferrin
Larry & Cari, Doug, Dillon & Hailey, Sophie, Donna, Mary Ann, Nancy, Sue & Jim, Mike, Steve, Laura & Stephen, Heike and of course – Mike & Mike
Our Snorkel Site
Sunday – Monday: Ocean World Marina, Dominican Republic
Tuesday – Friday: Silver Bank, Dominican Republic
We have an auspicious line up of guests this week and we are delighted to welcome Mike & Mike from the Jim Church School of Underwater Digital Photography as well as Aggressor Fleet’s very own Vice President of Operations, Larry Speaker, and his wife, Cari.
After a lively crossing from Ocean World Marina to the Silver Bank everyone was ready for a good night’s sleep to dream of the coming encounters with whales.
We came across a rowdy group of at least six whales, one of which was keen on pec slapping. One of the humpbacks would lie on its side and slap the pectoral on the surface of the water whilst holding one of the flukes out of the water at the same time. As the rowdy developed some of the whales would spy hop, gauging what we did not know, but maybe just using it as a means to change direction very quickly. For over an hour we followed this group led by a female who kept the pace and the direction.
A calf popping to the surface brought to our attention to a mother and calf less than 100 yards from the mother ship. The calf was playful, suddenly appearing in the form of a spy hop that, during a squall, saw the calf opening its mouth, we assume to enjoy the fresh water. The mother, when she surfaced, revealed a pretty white mark on her dorsal fin (sadly a scar), then logged quietly on the surface as she took enough air for her slumber. The calf rolled over her tail and then rested over her rostrum before both gently descended back to the depths.
Our topside encounters were outstanding during this week and we were able to enjoy every type of athletic display that the humpbacks performed. Another example of a humpback ascending slowly flukes first, showing an amazing demonstration of control against gravity as this delightful female held her position using her flukes and then proceeded to tail slap. Over and over her fluke would contact with the surface resulting in the white of her fluke pattern turning very slightly pink.
At times we would be almost surrounded by humpbacks, slapping their pectoral fins on the surface attracting our attention and leading us all around the Bank. We experienced some great pectoral action as a male rolled repeatedly brought his pec out of the water and then slap it on the surface. As he continuously displayed we were also able to see his eye socket bulging as he also observed the audience of humans enjoying the show. The pectoral fin can grow to be up to one third of the length of the whale and for an hour he connected with the waters surface whilst another single adult shared breath cycles but not the activity.
As usual we enjoyed the activities of the horizon whales. They are just too far in the distance for us to realistically get to before they stop displaying, but fun to see. Continuously pair of humpbacks would propel their entire bodies out of the water – for what reason we do not really know, maybe just because they can. Not needing a great deal of water to breach the immense power exhibited is breathtaking and when that display is just metres away it creates immense excitement. When the breach is repeated it allowed us to engage our cameras and capture this amazing spectacle.
This particular activity was the conclusion of an action packed six-whale rowdy group. High-energy action, including head lobs, pec slaps and tail lobs were the theme for the group as they led us away from the mooring area. One of the males, recognizable from the v-shaped chunk missing from his dorsal fin, became our breaching star later in the morning, but prior to that he would bring his chin plate up and prevent some of his competitors from reaching the surface to breathe. Tails swiped, bubbles were blown and at times the water was left boiling as the action continued beneath the surface away from our view. And then with the breaching of the last male it was over. The whales seemed to split up and our breaching master settled down to sing, alone.
Activity of this energy is not something that we would entertain entering the water for. Not because the humpbacks would cause us harm, but they have other things on their minds and avoiding us is not necessarily one of them. So as we enjoyed an encounter with pec slapping and a great deal of tail action we had accepted that we had another great topside encounter. That is, until they disappeared. At that point a couple of things could have been the outcome here – they had sneakily disappeared or they had decided to rest. In this instance the latter was the case and after the great energetic display they settled down to relax a while. This was an opportunity for us to get into the water and watch their resting cycle. Not a great deep sleep, just thirteen minutes between breaths, but long enough for us to get into position for them to ascend very close to our line of snorkelers, much to their delight.
Throughout the week we enjoyed the Mike’s classes on photography, with individual coaching for problem solving of camera issues, editing and post production. With a full house of graduations everyone left more knowledgeable re photography and our delightful friends, the humpback whales.