Bahamas Dolphins Cruise Report: Week 1, June 30 – July 5, 2013

Greetings from West End, Grand Bahama, where we have just completed our first of three week-long cruises to swim with the playful spotted dolphins of the Little Bahama Bank.

Capt. Gene Flipse of Conscious Breath Adventures and Capt. Jeff Pantukhoff of the Whaleman Foundation first met and became friends swimming with these dolphins in 1995, and after almost thirty cruises together in the Bahamas followed by a five year hiatus, we are very happy to make our return to see these dolphins we love so much.

Our group of ten adventurers for this week included a family group of five, two friends from the UK, and three returning guests who have been out with us to swim with the humpback whales of the Silver Bank. It was great to see them again, and to make some new friends, too.

In the weather almanacs, July historically has the calmest winds and seas that the Bahamas has to offer all year, but this week was the exception! Our week started windy and with a few storms, but that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm as we left the marina on Sunday evening and started north onto the Little Bahama Bank, and ended as an excellent adventure had by all.

During the days that followed we visited some of our favorite locations on the Bank, all the while keeping a watchful eye for the spotted dolphins and bottlenose dolphins that make this area their home.


   
Monday, July 1:

It was still choppy this morning but early on we found a single spotted dolphin around an hour after getting underway and were left wondering where his friends were? In the same area later in the day we came across another spotted dolphin along with four bottlenose and we think it was the same dolphin with some interspecies buddies. In the mid afternoon we had our first big interaction when we encountered a group of 8-10 friendly spotted dolphins and spent a half hour playing as hard as we could. It was a great start to the trip!

   


   
Tuesday, July 2:

This morning we made a stop at the Sugar Wreck, a molasses barge that wrecked and sank in just 18’ of water more than one hundred years ago. It is an oasis of life and a super place to snorkel and dive with myriad species of fish, sharks, rays and more. In the afternoon we cruised the edge of the Bank northward and twice found pods of 9-12 bottlenose which gave us great dolphin watching as they cruised with the boat. Then later we were happy to jump back in with a group of more than a dozen spotted dolphins who gave us another half hour of the best kind of exercise there is!

     


   
Wednesday, July 3:

The unseasonable wind continued today but the sun was shining brightly and spirits remain high. After a pleasant cruise from our anchorage there was plenty of dolphins to see. Cruising in the area locally referred to as the South Bar, we again found pods of 10-20 bottlenose and enjoyed a great show as they socialized, played or rode the bow wave of the M/V Carib Dancer. We also had a short but sweet swim with a pod of four spotted dolphins whose energy was higher than we were able to match. What made this encounter special was that while we were swimming with the spotted dolphins, several bottlenose joined in the action, so we were swimming with two species of dolphin at the same time!

    


   
Thursday, July 4:

This morning we decided to stay a little closer to where we’ve had our greatest success so far, in the area referred to locally as the South Bar. The South Bar is essentially a enormous sandbar that sits right on the edge of the Bahama Bank, with water colors shading from swimming pool blue to the deep purple-blue of the Gulf Stream depths. We’ve seen bottlenose and spotted dolphins here nearly every day and the view is always spectacular. We did swim with maybe 10 spotted dolphins for a short while but the highlight was our deep water adventure, where the intrepid group of snorkelers drifted for more than half a mile along the edge of the Bank where the waters quickly drop from 40’ to 100’ and more. Along with lots of fish, we saw three species of sharks, including Caribbean reef sharks, a lemon shark and a big great hammerhead, too! We followed that with another stop at the ever-popular Sugar Wreck where a friendly turtle introduced himself to the group.

    


    
Friday, July 5:

Sometimes it works out that the best comes last and with respect to the dolphins, that was true today! After having a delicious breakfast of omelets made to order, we pulled anchor and had barely traveled 100 yards before we found a pod of twelve spotted dolphins coming our direction. Within moments we were all in the water swooping, spinning and diving, playing at full speed with a mix of young calves and their mothers and some of the heavily spotted elders. The calves were especially enthusiastic, whistling as they zipped up, down and around. After an exciting half hour we watched from the boat as the pod cruised along, feeding on flying fish that crossed their paths. Then the pod approached the boat again as if in invitation so we answered the call and joined them for another half hour that was even more fun than the first. It was a fantastic few hours with the dolphins.

Afterward we had another drift on the deep reef, seeing a few more sharks and a huge green moray eel, before climbing out and setting course for the marina at the end of a very fun week.

    


 

 

 

 

 

The International Whaling Commission Takes Interest In Whale Watching

IWCThe International Whaling Commission (IWC), is the organization that deals with the management of whales around the world, best known for their worldwide ban on commercial whaling. Because of this ban, many people think of the IWC as a conservation organization, but in fact the IWC was originally, and still is, a commercial fishery organization whose main objective is the commercial utilization of their primary resource, in this case cetaceans.

The IWC became a defacto conservation organization when the over-exploitation of whales and dolphins drove many species to the brink of extinction, threatening the very resource the IWC oversees. In 1982 the IWC banned commercial whaling to allow species to recover to the point that commercial harvest can resume in a better-managed way. That moratorium and recovery are still underway today.

However, during the intervening decades much in the world and her oceans has changed. Globally, every ocean and sea is at greater risk than ever before from a wide range of threats including waste disposal, persistent toxic chemical contamination, and ocean acidification, to name but a few. As awareness of these issues and understanding of the complex nature of whales and dolphins has grown, so has the deep-seated conviction that, regardless of numbers and management strategies, there is no longer a justifiable reason to resume the harvest of any cetaceans.

The IWC Five Year Strategic Plan for Whalewatching

The IWC Five Year Strategic Plan for Whalewatching

One reason that this environmental awareness has spread has been through the relatively new industry of whale and dolphin watching (collectively referred to as whale watching). While whaling has been

practiced for centuries, whale watching first got its start in the 1970s on the waters of New England and since its humble beginnings is now a global industry that has helped tens of millions of people to make a connection with live cetaceans around the world.

Whale watching is widely touted as a sustainable commercial use of cetaceans, and with estimated earnings of more than two billion of dollars in  2012, it has formally caught the attention of the IWC, whose interest is in any and all commercial use of the resource, lethal or non-lethal. The IWC has established a Standing Working Group on Whale Watching; created a Five Year Strategic Plan; and recently hosted a Whale Watch Operator’s Workshop on the subject.

Attending members of the Responsible Whale Watch Operators Partnership

Attending members of the Responsible Whale Watch Operators Partnership

As head of Conscious Breath Adventures, I was invited by the Working Group to attend this conference in Brisbane, Australia on May 24-25, 2013. Joined by several fellow members of the Planet Whale Responsible Whale Watch Operator’s Partnership, along with dozens of other operators from around the world. The group gathered for two days of intensive discussion on a number of issues critical to the future of the industry.

Subjects of discussion on the agenda focused on five areas of interest:
1)   Onboard science
2)   Assessment & monitoring
3)   Capacity building
4)   Developing and/or enhancing responsible whale watch operations
5)   Management aspects

Several themes were prevalent at the meeting. First was an acknowledgement that with so many different species watched by so many in very diverse locations, it is impractical to try to impose uniform practices or protocols everywhere. The consensus is that regional issues require regional solutions. So, for example, whale watch guidelines for Massachusetts’ Stellwagen Bank may not be appropriate for whale watch operations in Iceland, or on the Dominican Republic’s Silver Bank.

Another matter is the recognition among most operators that there is a need and a benefit to creating and maintaining some sort of international association or organization of whale watch operators to address common global issues and work with agencies such as the IWC. Both of these points are in direct alignment with the core philosophies of the Responsible Whale Watch Operator’s Partnership and our members look forward to being involved in this future association.

On the first subject of onboard science, there is an almost universal agreement that responsible whale watch operators have a unique platform to support and contribute to cetacean research; and that valuable contributions can be made even in the context of an ecotourism activity. There is also recognition that operators and the general public need more direct access to the findings that come from the research they support.

Regarding assessment and monitoring, the objective is to develop appropriate monitoring programs to detect potential significantly adverse impacts on individual cetaceans and populations. Questions discussed included how to increase the use of whale watch operators in this research; if operators should be included in this research; and how to improve access to the resultant data.

The third item on the agenda was the issue of capacity building, which means recognizing and supporting opportunities to develop responsible whale watching as an industry. This is an interesting subject, as whale watching is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel and tourism industry. The IWC is interested in learning how to identify new locations where whale watching is possible; how to promote the creation and use of best practices in those areas; and how to encourage community participation in a new local industry. Everyone agrees that as the industry grows there is a need to encourage research and responsible best practices, but the questions of how to identify opportunities, and even if it is appropriate, were harder to answer.

The subject of developing and enhancing responsible whale watch operations brought lively discussion with many contributions from attendees. Questions discussed were how to market whale watching responsibly (top answer: by managing customer expectations); what organizations can help develop whale watching locally; how to create a common community of practice for an area, so that all operators use equivalent techniques; and even matters such as boat requirements and operational health and safety. One suggestion was to have established operators act as consultants to new operations or offer “internships” to key personnel to allow for on the job training with the IWC helping to fund such exchanges.

The question of management had the most feedback of all as attendees discussed the value of methods such as licensing or permitting to regulate number, type and size of vessels; how to regulate approach frequency, distance, type of interaction and duration; closed seasons and times; the value of guidelines vs regulations; and enforcement requirements to ensure compliance. There was also discussion of educational tools and training for operators and staff. On these subjects the consensus was that licensing and regulation is essential for the well being of the whales and for the industry.

On the subject of management I was able to offer our operations in the Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic as an example of a very successful permitting and regulatory scheme. As most readers of Whale eMail know, Conscious Breath Adventures engages in “swim-with” activities with humpback whales. I was able to show how very limited permitting and well thought-out regulation, combined with fortuitous geography, allow for a very successful, low-impact and sustainable activity that is an incredibly specialized and powerful way for people to connect with whales. Without the regulatory controls put in place by the government of the Dominican Republic, the welfare of the whales and success of the activity would be greatly diminished.

I am grateful for the opportunity to attend the Whale Watching Workshop and contribute to these important discussions. As with many such meetings, the results from the discussions may come some time in the future and work is underway, but it is heartening to see a greater recognition of the value of the whale watch industry and the greater value of living cetaceans themselves. Conscious Breath Adventures looks forward to contributing to advancing these sustainable agendas.

Conscious Breath Adventures’ Cruise Report: Week 10, March 30-April 5, 2013

Conscious Breath Adventures' Cruise Report: Week 10, March 30-April 5, 2013

Wow! The 2013 humpback whale season on the Silver Bank has come to an end. It was a wonderful few months with the whales and, with forgiveness requested for my short break, I hope you enjoy this final Cruise Report.

I find that the last week of the season is always a bit of a whirlwind. After nine weeks of continuous activity the final week always seems to pop up suddenly and then we find ourselves doing everything for the “last” time: our last Sunday afternoon, our last natural history presentation, our last slice of banoffee pie for dessert (!). Then suddenly it’s all over, we take a parting look at the wreck of the Polyxeni (what will it look like next year?), give our thanks and say our goodbyes to the whales. Then the cleaning and packing takes over and before you know it, we are thinking about the next season again; which we are… but the good news is that it is just nine months until the 2014 season begins!

Breaching humpback calf

Breaching humpback calf
(click for larger view)

Week 10 was a great mix of whale action for us. The surface activity was going on strong all around us and throughout the week our guests were able to see some of the very best up-close displays of breaching we’ve had this entire season. Sunday afternoon featured a mother with her enthusiastic calf giving us a show (left) and we had an even better display later in the week when another mom and calf both got into the act, with the mother repeatedly launching herself near the boat with tremendous impact (below). It just never gets old!

Splashdown after a breach

Splashdown after a breach

 

Rowdy humpback whales

Rowdy humpback whales
(click for larger view)

As the season moves on different behaviors come to the fore, and this week we also saw more, larger and more determined rowdy groups, too. Earlier in the season, with more available single female whales in residence, there were more opportunities for the eager males, but as more of those single females became pregnant and depart the Silver Bank, the ratio of available female to male whales changes and the competition becomes more intense. Several times during the week we were treated to the thrill of large rowdy groups vying for the affections of a female. It is just amazing to witness these animals (at 35 tons each, more than 800,000 pounds of raging humpback) charging hard in a tight pack of muscle and energy. And even more amazing when the female in hot pursuit takes a short break close to our tender and we find ourselves surrounded by a dozen or more whales close enough to touch and yet supremely in control of the race and their ocean.Charging rowdy whale

Mother and calf humpback whaleEven in the late season there were still plenty of whales to be found and it was interesting to note that in the last couple weeks of our time here we saw some of the smallest and youngest calves of the whole season. These are late-season babies, born in the closing weeks of March, lingering with their mothers while they gain the strength they need for the northward migration. They have a long swim in front of them and we wish them all a safe trip!

Mother humpback & calf

Mother & calf
(click for larger view)

In the water we had plenty of opportunities although some of the whales seemed at times restless, as if thinking about their northward trip. We enjoyed in-water encounters with a number of mothers and calves and ended our week, and my twelfth season on the Silver Bank, gazing into the big brown eye of one of the most peaceful humpback mothers we’ve met to date. It’s an image that will sustain me over the next nine months!

At the end of it all we find ourselves back at the Ocean World Marina where we packed up our things and on Saturday morning bid farewell to the M/V Sun Dancer II as they departed on their 6 day cruise back to their home port in Belize, off for another season of scuba diving the barrier reef there. We wish them a safe trip and look forward to seeing them all again next year.

Hidden waterfall and swimming hole

Hidden waterfall
& swimming hole
(click for larger view)

Kite Beach

Kite Beach
(click for larger view)

After a bit of cleaning and maintenance of our two boats, Pec & Fluke, we had a few days to enjoy some of the local attractions here in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is a beautiful, lush country with warm and friendly people and it was nice to have the chance to explore a bit more. Highlights were a trip to a local amber mine; a day walking the beaches near Cabarete; and a hike into some of the less-traveled waterfalls in the area, with deep, cool swimming holes. We also now know a great deal more about some of the local establishments where some of our guests may like to stay in the future and look forward to helping you plan an even more meaningful trip to this part of the world.

Thanks for following us here (or joining us in person) this season and I hope you enjoyed reading about some of our adventures. We will revisit some of them in the months ahead, and if you have anything you would like to learn more about, please feel free to contact us and let us know. Watch this space for more environmental reporting; photos, sound recordings and videos of the humpbacks. And watch for our next adventure, swimming with wild spotted dolphins in the Bahamas!

Sincerely,

Capt. Gene Flipse

Conscious Breath Adventures

Beach near Cabarete

Beach near Cabarete

Conscious Breath Adventures’ Cruise Report: Week 8, March 16-22, 2013

Conscious Breath Adventures' Cruise Report: Week 8, March 16-22, 2013

Sunday, March 17:

Our first afternoon of Week 8 had us out in our whale boats, Pec & Fluke, looking for friendly humpback whales. There were plenty of whales to be seen, with lots of mothers and their calves cruising around the Silver Bank. After a nice afternoon on the water we were happy to have a couple of green shirts come out at our daily Sundowner celebration, in honor of St. Patricks Day! Our wonderful guests this week included program directors from Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute’s Marine Mammal Research & Conservation Center with whom I’ve had the honor of working for many years on long-term dolphin studies in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida. It was a pleasure to finally welcome them to the Silver Bank. Continue reading

Conscious Breath Adventures’ Cruise Report: Week 7, March 9-15, 2013

Conscious Breath Adventures' Cruise Report: Week 7, March 9-15, 2013

We had an interesting assortment of guests aboard this week, including a group from the U.S., and folks from Belgium, Scotland and England, including a gentleman we met last year at WhaleFest 2012 in Brighton whose hobby is 3D photography. He sure picked a large-scale subject this week!

Conditions tested our guests’ patience and faith during the start of this week but as always, the humpback whales prevailed. Continue reading

Conscious Breath Adventures’ Cruise Report: Week 6, March 2-8, 2013

Conscious Breath Adventures' Cruise Report: Mar. 2-8, 2013This was Week 6 of our 2013 season, and guests from the US, France and Germany were treated to a variety of weather and humpback whale action. We had another visit from a most unusual friend and made some new ones, too. No matter how often we visit the Silver Bank, every trip is different, you just never know how that will be until it happens. Continue reading

Conscious Breath Adventures’ Cruise Report: Week 5, February 23-March 1, 2013

Conscious Breath Adventures' Cruise Report: week 5, Feb. 23-Mar. 1, 2013

Welcome to our Cruise Report for Week 5 of our 2013 Silver Bank humpback whale season. We are at the halfway point now, this weekend, and as usual there is a lot going on here in our port of embarkation.

The biggest event of this weekend ashore is a crew change as our valued staff and very good friend, Capt. Jeff Pantukhoff of the Whaleman Foundation, concludes his tour here in the Dominican Republic. By the time we are done here on the Silver Bank in early April, Jeff will have concluded three excursions guiding supporters of the foundation to visit the friendly California grey whales in Mexico’s San Ignacio Lagoon and will be in Japan working diplomatic channels to stop the killing of dolphins in Tajii and elsewhere. Thanks, Jeff, for all the good times and for all your help this season. Safe travels!

Taking Jeff’s place will be CBA guide and naturalist Elisa Buller. Elisa is a scuba diving instructor, captain, photographer and videographer who has worked with spotted dolphins in the Bahamas, and humpbacks in Tonga and on the Silver Bank. Thanks for joining us again, Elisa!

Week 5 was an exceptional week with many stories to tell. We had a bunch of returning guests and many more fresh faces, folks from as far away as Holland , Alaska, California and New England. It was a fun group and they have a shared experience now that they will never forget. Let’s get started… Continue reading

Conscious Breath Adventures’ Cruise Report: Week 4, February 16-22, 2013

Conscious Breath Adventures' Cruise REeport: Week 4, February 16-22, 2013

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Today began our fourth week among the humpback whales of the Silver Bank. We had a boat full of dedicated and soon-to-be whale-lovers including a group from the South Florida underwater photography scene; an adventuress all the way from Australia; a professional cameraman from Brazil, on location shooting for a German production company; and more. And get this: we even had one young lady who had never been on a boat before, and who had never seen a whale in the wild! Wow, what a way to start your whale watching career!

Our overnight cruise out from Puerto Plata was a little bumpy, but it was a classic start for our new whaleswimmers on the Silver Bank. Whales were everywhere to be seen during our final approach to our mooring and by the time we headed out for the afternoon excursion the wind and seas were down and the sun was shining brightly. It was a beautiful afternoon.

It didn’t take long for our boats to find a mother, calf and her escort relaxing nearby. After watching for a short while to assess their behavior before considering an approach, we slipped quietly into the water to begin what would be an easy, extended swim with the whales. Mom would rest for twenty minutes before coming up to breathe, logging on the surface in front of us; the calf would rise every five minutes or so and take a few breaths and cavort around; and every so often the escort would slowly circle and roll just below to have a closer look. Watching the social interactions between the whales gave everyone a look into a few hours in the life of the humpback whales, and with whales like these, the time really flew by.

Humpback mother, calf & swimmer

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TW and her calf

TW and her calf

Monday, February 18, 2013

It was breezy this morning but the extensive reef on the Silver Bank provides us a good place to look for whales in calmer waters. The protected waters are part of why the whales come here!

Little more than half an hour after starting the morning excursion, our whale boat,“Pec”, found a mother and calf resting among the rocks. After our standard observation period, with everything looking good, we entered the water for a closer look.

The markings that give "TW" her nickname

The markings that give “TW” her nickname

Mom and calf were resting peacefully, and it only took a few minutes to recognize that this mother was a whale we had swum with during the 2011 season, when she also had a calf. She was easy to recognize from the distinctive markings on her left pectoral fin which look like the initials “TW”, which is what we have called her since.

TW is an amazingly calm and easygoing mother. While she rested just below in the sixty foot deep water, we were able to watch closely as her calf, another pretty little girl, played and frolicked on the surface in front of the delighted swimmers. During the entire morning of swimming, TW never moved more than a few hundred feet, maybe a dozen lengths of her 35′-40′ body. At one point we were even privileged to watch the calf nurse from its mother, sharing a moment of ultimate mother/child intimacy.

Besides the identifying markings on her pec fin, TW has another interesting characteristic that we called her “leaky valve”, which she had in 2011, too. Most of the time she is underwater a thin stream of tiny bubbles escapes continuously from her blowhole, creating a string of glistening bubbles rising to the surface.

As we get to know these whales over time as individuals, it is amazing to learn their unique traits and personalities. TW has her leaky valve, just like in 2011, and the same totally relaxed demeanor as in that past encounter, too. Like last time, she seems to prefer resting in mid-water, not too close to the bottom, and barely moves a muscle when she rises for a breath. Both times we have seen her we were within just a few hundred yards of the mooring and she never moved much farther than that on either day. We sure hope to see her again later this season!

TW's "leaky valve"

TW’s “leaky valve”

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Rowdy escort shows his tooth-raked dorsal

Rowdy escort shows his tooth-raked dorsal

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Today was an exciting day for watching whales. The morning’s highlight was a thrilling display of pec-slapping and lobtailing between a single female, her escort and two male challengers. We watched closely as they slowly zig-zagged through the reef while the male whales jostling for position at the female’s side, even approaching closely to challenge the boat at one point, mistaking us for another challenger. The escort was easy to recognize from the distinctive rake marks on his dorsal that were the result of some past incident with one or more orca.

The escort with the rake marks swims near the Wreck of the Polyxeni

The escort with the rake marks swims near the Wreck of the Polyxeni

Later in the afternoon our boats were out and about and found a pair of adult whales resting in a different part of the reef. We quickly recognized the pair as the female and her tooth-raked escort, settled in for a nap after the rigors of the earlier battle! These two whales shared their afternoon with us, the female resting peacefully, the escort occasionally circling below to have a closer look at the swimmers in the water. He was one calm, cool character, slow and easy in his movements, confident in his position. We eventually ended up with them just a few yards of the wreck of the Polyxeni, the Silver Bank’s iconic landmark.

What a fun day, seeing the behaviors change from a rowdy fight in the morning to a contented, accommodating couple in the afternoon.

Female humpback and her dedicated escort

Female humpback and her dedicated escort

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A breaching humpback whale calf shows off its skills

A breaching humpback whale calf shows off its skills

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Another breezy day awaited us today and the whales we saw were mostly on the move. Our best activity for the morning was more surface shows, especially this calf which breached repeatedly for us, dozens of times, sometimes at close range.

In the afternoon we were able to spend some time swimming with a mother and her playful calf, too, satisfying our in-water itch quite nicely. This calf was yet another female, the little girls seem to be everywhere this year.

It has been a great week so far, and as the day drew to a close one of our guests, the adventuress all the way from Melbourne, Australia, commented at how remarkable the experience had been so far, saying that already she had seen 75% more whales than she had expected. With a week like this, I can understand her feelings!

A playeful humpback whale calf_____________________________________________________________________________________

Mother, calf and escort socialize in the reef

Mother, calf and escort socialize in the reef

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Today was yet another full day shared with the whales. The morning started with the boats heading out as usual with lots to see but few good opportunities to swim. In the late morning John, one of the crew from the M/V Sun Dancer II and a regular whale boat driver, called on the radio to say that a mom, calf and escort were resting right next to the big boat at the mooring, and he had been in for a swim right there!

We hurried over to join the fun with John and ended up swimming with the trio in the middle of the anchorage all during lunch. A little later they moved farther down the reef where they settled in for long rest nestled in between the coral heads and an exciting display of unusual behavior.

This trio was fun already, always approaching closely during their breath cycles, circling closely below, weaving gracefully between the rocks, always staying nearby, but the bonus surprise was when the mother slowy and expertly rolled right over onto her back and rested in an inverted position, slowly waving her white pectoral fins to maintain her position. We’ve only seen this behavior twice before over the years, so it was a special bonus to wrap up a fantastic week.

It was a fantastic week on the Silver Bank and everyone, guests and crew alike, was thrilled. The cameraman from Brazil, Lawrence (see header image), said that in all his years working with wildlife and especially marine life, he had never imagined that it was possible to become so familiar, so friendly, with wild marine mammals. He said he’d never seen anything quite like it. We have! He’s coming back later this season and can’t wait for a repeat adventure. Neither can we! Until then, stay tuned for next week’s Cruise Report.

A very unusual behavior: a humpback whale sleeping in an inverted position

A very unusual behavior: a humpback whale sleeping in an inverted position

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Conscious Breath Adventures’ Cruise Report: Week 3, February 9-15, 2013

Conscious Breath Adventures Cruise Report: Feb. 9-15, 2013

Sunday, February 10:

Our third week started out with a bright and sunny morning with lots of whales to be seen. Come afternoon, for our first excursion, skies darkened a bit and the clouds took some of the gleam off the day. Nevertheless, late in the afternoon we crossed paths with three whales actively socializing on the surface. There was some of the tell-tale behaviors such as rolling, spyhopping, tail-sweeps and swirls that are often seen when the courtships are going strong. Continue reading