Late winter and early spring in the Caribbean waters between the southern Bahamas and the Dominican Republic means that North Atlantic humpback whales are in the area for their annual rituals of mating and rearing the young of the year calves who were born in late December or early January. A 40 square mile area of sand, known as "The Silver Bank" is the mating grounds for more than 16000 humpback whales from various locations in the North Atlantic. At any one time from January to April their may be some 4000 whales in motion on the Bank.
On this, our fifth trip to the Silver Bank with the team at Aquatic Adventures, (see our posts of previous trips http://www.aquaticadventures.com/), we were met with very challenging weather conditions. Strong easterly and northeasterly winds of 25 - 30 knots with higher gusts were present for the first three days and we were unable to leave the confines of our live-aboard dive boat to scout for whales. Strong winds persisted but in some lulls we got out and managed to get in the water to observe mother and calf pairs and several pairs of "sleeping" whales resting in a comfortable downward facing pose. These whales were remarkable for they stayed underwater for periods of 25 - 30 minutes coming to the surface just to get a breath and then return to their resting positions. Several pairs were believed to be male and females in courtship mode.
Our patience was finally rewarded at the very last opportunity on the last morning of our time on the Bank when we discovered a mother and calf in the coral reef that protects the anchorage from the large ocean swells. Sighting here are prized for the clear visibility and the chance to get images in a coral background. This mother/calf pair was delightfully relaxed and posed for us elegantly for almost 30 minutes before the calf got bored and swimming directly under several members of our team performed a magnificent baby breach as it headed of with mom moving after. In the images below you will also notice the presence of a third whale, a male. He is described by our guides as an "escort" staying close to the adult female and offering modest protection action other males in the hopes of currying favor with the female for a future mating opportunity. In this instance his presence was also very mellow further testament toÂ our good fortune to witness such a spectacle of these massive but gentle cetaceans in their winter environment.