The whales are back!
WDCS is unable to conduct our field season this year in Turks and Caicos at the same level of past seasons. However, we are sill keeping up with the people and the whales of TCI. The whales are back, as are our friends living in TCI seasonally, like Pat and Henry Coe. You might remember Pat and Henry from last year, as they graciously donated their home for our researchers.
In getting to know the Coes, one gets to see the epitome of giving back to the community - from looking after the elder human residents to the wild donkeys and dogs of Salt Cay, I feel blessed that WDCS and whales are part of the Coes' community.
Pat sent us a whale update we wanted to share with you, it encapsulates the magic felt when spending time in nature amongst wild animals:
You never know what a day will bring. This morning Henry and I were sitting eating breakfast and watching the sea when I saw a whale breach way up out of the water and flop back in with an enormous splash. He was about a half mile north of us and we couldn't tell which way he was going, but I quickly jumped in the kayak and paddled out to the deep and headed north to see if I could get a better look. I sat there for a while and didn't see anything, slightly on edge knowing that there was a remote chance a whale could come up right under me and send me shooting skyward. Suddenly I heard the loud whoosh of a blow only 100 yards to the south of me. Three big males were surfacing, their grey /black humps gracefully arching over the water, close enough that I could see barnacles on their backs. I paddled with all my might and stayed up with them and watched them surface and spray 3 more times before they lifted their tail flukes high out of the water and dove deep. What a thrill! I've been waiting all season for a chance to be with the whales. When I went on a whale watch last week we saw 3 pods in the distance, but this was really great. When returning to shore I rode the waves and Digger (my dog) swam out to greet me. Nice way to start the day.
For me, the part of Pat's story that makes me want to hop on a plane right now is that the three humpbacks FLUKED UP when diving. Most of our encounters in the Caribbean do not include seeing the underside of the tail fluke, which without that info, answering our questions takes even longer because figuring out who the individual whales are requires more time. But this research is so important to understand better how whales are utilizing the Caribbean. Take for example a recent article on the web just a few days ago - February 18th. Political Affairs Magazine
"More than a dozen humpback whales have been seen in ocean waters off Lucrecia Point, on the northern coast of Holguin, eastern Cuba, something unusual in the island nation." Even though it is thought humpback whales might use this route while migrating, they are not commonly seen so close to shore. "After learning about the large presence of humpback whales, scientific authorities together with the Fishing Enterprise and Coastguard Forces coordinated efforts to guarantee the safety of the guests."
Especially, when considering the possible impacts of climate change on entire ocean basins, it is more important then ever to document and track habitat usage.
The whales are back!