Friday, February 25, 2011

Back from the Silver banks!

The Blue World crew has just returned from the Silver Banks where we filmed Humpback whales for the third season! We chartered the Turks & Caicos Aggressor for a week and spent all week trying to sneak up close to whales. The female Humpbacks in the north Atlantic migrate down to the Caribbean in the winter to have their calves in the warm, calm waters. The males follow along, hoping to mate with the females.

One of the largest gatherings of Humpbacks occurs in the Silver banks, a shallow area about 80 miles north of the Dominican Republic. It is protected by fringing reefs and coral heads, creating an isolated area, far from land. Although there is nothing to eat for the whales, they have calm, warm, clear water where they can give birth to their calves.

As the calves get a little older, they get rambunctious, eager to explore and have fun. Their mothers want to protect them, but at the same time, need to allow them to swim around a little. To film them, we get in the water near the whales very slowly and quietly, and wait for them to come over and give us a look. Sometimes they are too scared and skittish. But sometimes, the curiosity of the calf overcomes its apprehension, and the calf swims over to us, under the watchful eye of mom. These experiences can only be described as magical. The animals are magnificent, tremendously huge, and extremely gentle around us, always moving with care.

Although the first couple of days were slow with the whale action, it really picked up later in the week. Pierre and I were able to film mothers and calves, as well as sleeping whales, and even a “Valentine” which is a female and a male engaged in pre-mating rituals. We got so much footage that I felt comfortable taking my still camera into the water a couple times and managed to get some very cool images! (Anytime I get to shoot some stills on a trip, it’s a good trip!)

This is going to be one of the best segments in season 3 and I can hardly wait to get started editing it when I get back!