Last week, I was dressed head to toe in neoprene, sliding on my belly off a tiny boat into the ocean, where I watched school bus-sized whales and their car-sized babies frolic in the ocean.
I’m writing a story about my experience at the Silver Bank, a nine-hour boat ride off the coast of the Dominican Republic, but wanted to share a few pictures now.
Humpback whales are groovy. They spend their summers in the North Atlantic, and each winter swim thousands of miles to this shallow uprising in the ocean, where the females give birth and raise their calves. The mothers teach babies the whale skills they’ll need when they head back north, things like breaching, tail slapping, spy hopping and communicating.
I spent a week on a live-aboard boat at the Silver Bank with about 20 others, heading out each day on tender to observe and snorkel with the creatures. Each evening, marine biologists taught us about the animals’ anatomy, migration patterns and behavior, and the challenges the species faces from threats like pollution, hunting, noise and plastic waste.
Adult humpbacks have eyes the size of softballs; their pectoral fins look like long surfboards. The mamas measure about 45 feet long; the babies are about 12 feet long when they’re born, but grow an inch and gain 100 pounds each day. And the males sing – a 20-minute “melody” with three distinctive parts. Each year, they drop one part and replace it with another. Different communities of whales sing distinctive songs.
Whales, in short, are smart. Really smart. And you get that sense when you look one in the eye.
I’ll post the article here when it’s published.