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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captains Log
February 23 – March 2 2019
Silver Bank, Dominican Republic
Air temperature: 75° - 82° F
Water temperature: 79°F
Visibility: 30 - 60 feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm/5mm full wetsuit & a windbreaker
Captain: Amanda Smith
Chef: Chace Gaudreau
Video Pro: James Whittle
Photo Pro: Ben Phillips
Whale Guide: Sarah Pearson
Stew: Eva Roman
Malika, Alastair and Rakel, Kevin, Christine, Lori, Jennifer, Jackie, Jonathan, Scott and Lauren, Brandon, Philippe, Kaz and Marilyn
Our Snorkel Site
Sunday – Friday: Silver Bank, Dominican Republic
This week we welcomed back Scott and Lauren and with them 13 other enthusiastic whale loving photographers. Some familiar faces and some new.
Once we had set up snorkeling gear we were briefed about the week ahead before settling in for a lovely meal cooked by Chef Chase and settling in for an early night.
This week we were lucky enough to experience a multitude of Mother and calf encounters, both topside and in water. What we noticed this week especially is the Mothers becoming more relaxed, with the calves. In turn the calves seemed to be showing slightly more confidence and curiosity towards us onboard the tender and the snorkelers in the water. This proved for some remarkable experiences. We also noticed a theme of very interested males biding for position of escort, which often seemed to cause great annoyance to the Mother.
We started the week off strong with two in water Mother and calf encounters on the very first morning. As the mother was resting about 25 ft below the calf would be nestling underneath or beside her. It wouldnt take very long for the calf to start showing signs of coming up for a breath. We would start to see some movement from below. Perhaps a miniature set of peck fins would start poking out from under the Mothers gigantic nose, or we would start to see its bumpy little rostrum beginning to point upwards and if we were lucky, towards us. The rise to the surface is much slower than the decent back down, so sometimes you had to really keep a close eye to determine whether there was infact any movement at all or whether you were just seeing things. Once the calf was half way up to the surface it became very obvious and you could clearly see the direction of which the calf was choosing to go. In most cases the calf would swim to the surface directly above Mom, beginning a semi circle away from the snorkelers and swing back around towards us before it took one last breath, then a sharp dive down and a few strong kicks and nestling back under Moms peck fin. But every couple of breath cycles the calf would feel a little more playful or curious. It would come up directly towards the line of snorkelers, and take a very close look with its building eye as it swam past us. The body and belly grooves were protruded and would appear as though it was wiggling, the goofy peck fin would usually extend out towards us, and as it turned around away from us, it would usually kick its fluke a few times, propelling streams of bubbles in our direction just to remind us the true power of this Volkswagen sized infant.
Sometimes the calf would head out on its semi circle away but then decide to come towards us instead and have a little nosey in between the line of guests before it dove down.
Other times, it would begin its descent and then look as though it perhaps changed its mind half way though, changing course and checking us out once again.
In one encounter when the calf was playing around at the surface, it actually opened its enormous mouth, taking in a large gulp of air, which is quite a sight to see. It also did this once in the water.
Though in most cases we definitely noticed the calf showing signs of curiosity or even excitement towards the strange looking, long limbed things floating at the surface. And of course gave everyone some amazing close in water photo opportunities. Something they will always treasure.
We were able to witness first hand the special and close bond that the mother and calf share. Each time the calf went down to the Mothers sleeping position it would nuzzle the Mother. Sometimes, poking in and around her rostrum, other times swimming straight under her body and settling under her outspread Peck fin much like a big hug. Always very tactile and physical.
We noticed some very restless calves who would never really settle and continue to nudge Mom or swim around her before heading straight back up towards us every one minute or so. But it definitely seemed as though the calf became more energetic and excited looking when mum finally began her slow ascend up to the surface.
From the surface looking down sometimes it was very hard to recognize whether the Mother was infact beginning to surface or not because it was so slow. The snorkelers were positioned in a line from her peck fin to her rostrum. In most cases you would notice that she had begun to angle her self upwards and in some instances it would be towards the group. The Mother would either slowly poke her rostrum out of the water and spy hop or arch back to take a powerful breath. Sometimes logging at the surface for a minute or so before moving on slightly or diving straight back down below again. The calf would usually be resting or rolling on her rostrum or back at this point or swimmingly enthusiastically by her side.
There were a few occasions where we noticed some mischievous calf behavior. Sometimes the calf would not nestle safely back under the Mother and instead would swim in some larger circles at the bottom, investigating its surroundings. In another instance the calf came up and actually took off and began breaching on the surface, which is very unusual and it didnt take long before the Mother surfaced herself and the calf came immediately back by her side. In these cases the Mother appeared uncomfortable with the calf leaving independently without her because it always seemed to disturb her sleep cycle quickly. But was an entertaining show for the snorkelers on the surface.
On more than once occasion the Mother would settle to sleep only 4 ft or so from the surface which was a stunning view for the guest to watch the closely as they waited for the breath cycle to continue. When the Calf seemed to be generally sticking to the “rules”,the Mother seemed relaxed and some encounters would last for up to 4 hours.
One of the situations that seemed to disrupt the Mothers this week was the presence of the escort. On more than one occasion the snorkelers above would begin to see another set of pecks appear below and more often than not the Mother would react as though she was displeased. Moving from her sleep, sometimes swiping a peck fin towards the male and in one instance actually blowing bubbles towards him. This would result in either swimming around the bank with her calf or moving a short distance and beginning a sleep cycle again. When the Mother and calf were moving along the calves this week displayed a lot of imitation behavior. Breaching, and tail slapping. Sometimes breaching up to 20 times in a row. This was very entertaining and adorable to witness the calf learning this important whale behavior. As well as great photo opportunities of course.
We had a very special encounter during the middle of the week. A large female was sleeping for around 10 minutes at a time with her tail up. An escort would swim by and rest next to her for minutes at a time but would suddenly appear restless as he sensed a challenger nearby. Suddenly there would be a third whale on the scene. There would be some bubble blowing and some very aggressive behavior as the challenger would contend for the escorts position. This did not seem to bother the female during the most part. She would slowly rise and log at the surface in front of the snorkelers, before heading back down directly below. On two occasions she decided to take off and swim around the bank, peck slapping, turning over on her belly, tail slapping, and generally exciting the two males, who were eagerly following and fighting to be by her side. A spectacular topside show.
All and all, the guests were extremely happy and satisfied with the amazing encounters of the week. And were all very busy editing their favorite photos of the week during the Friday journey back to Ocean World Marina.
We ended the week with the wine and cheese party recapping the weeks encounters and we also celebrated Kaz and Marilyns 50th wedding anniversary. A great week spent with awesome people.