Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Singers- our last day of whale encounters

We were determined to see, swim with and photograph Humpbacks today, after spending four and half days at Silver Bank but only entering the water on two of them.The tenders had to venture into much deeper and further areas outside the reef to look for animals, and the swells grew to four or five feet. Our little tender bobbed and listed, taking on water. We dropped the hyrdophone as nothing was visible on the surface, and immediately heard an animated whale song that was nearby and growing in volume. Two whales could be seen as we followed the sounds, and appeared to be promising. Dropping as carefully as possible into the water we floated above a sleeping/resting "singer", a male vocalizing with unique and curious sounds. His tones reverberated around us and he continued to sigh, chirp and drone.I am sure he saw us and wondered who or what the funny flippered creatures were hovering on the surface overhead.Little did he know how utterly thrilled the first time whale watchers were, spell bound and mesmerized by the elegant giant below them.
A lone Humpback male will sing a chirping haunting song that can be heard for hundreds of males around him. The sound capacity and band width for broadcast and hearing is much wider than that of humans. The whale drifted upwards after 15 minutes or so , and I got a few images . Rather than return to the tender, I sped off swimming with the guide and one other guest on a wild chase through the waves, out in the open North Atlantic, rising up over big swells and flying across the coral reef heads. Snorkeling out there with my camera in tow was daunting at first, but I got great exercise that was welcome after sitting on the tender. The whale finally chose a place to rest for another breath cycle and we floated above him, joined by the rest of our group.Getting back in the tender was very tricky in rough water and I stubbed my toe badly on the steering console as the boat lurched. Thankfully , no broken bones!
The final afternoon we spent cruising the shallow "reef nursery". It appeared overall there were few animals to be seen this year as compared to other seasons.It was windy and at times rough, with spray that made shooting from the tender tricky for the land cameras. The other tender group was lucky to get into the water every day. The Atlanitc Humpbacks and their beautiful white pectorals were worth the effort to observe, but I wish I could stay in their domain for a longer time on my own boat!
Yes that is me , swimming with the Humpbacks. Image courtesy of Captain Gene Flipse on Sun Dancer II

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