|The Whales are Coming|
|Saturday, 17 January 2009 07:43|
Every year the extraordinary humpback whales make there 1500 mile migrating journey from New England in December towards the Dominican Republic. Whales travel to cold waters for feeding; they go to warmer waters to give birth.
Along this long journey these amazing creatures pass right by our beautiful islands. In the months from February to April, whales can be spotted off shore anywhere from Salt Cay and Grand Turk to West Caicos.
The Dominican Republic has made these whales' birthing grounds on Silver Banks, just north of that Caribbean country, a marine sanctuary.
The Silver Bank is located 100 km north of the Dominican Republic and approximately the same distance from the Turks and Caicos Islands and is one of numerous breeding and calving zones of humpback whales. Research indicates that the Silver Bank contains the largest population of humpbacks in the North Atlantic Ocean, if not the world. Conservative estimates believe three to five thousand humpbacks pass through this odd shaped twenty square miles encompassing the Silver Bank during a season.
Humpback whales feed in higher latitudes (40-60 degrees) each spring, summer and fall, and undergo prolonged periods of fasting during the winter. During the summer, the long days of sunlight combine with dissolved nutrients to produce dense swarms of plankton, creating seasonally rich and productive waters that the whales rely on for food. A humpback's diet consists of shrimp-like crustaceans called krill (euphausiids) and various types of small schooling fish, including herring, capelin, sand lance and mackerel.
Since lower latitude breeding areas are generally nutrient poor, humpback whales eat huge quantities of food each day during months where food is abundant in order to store energy in the form of blubber for the winter.
During the winter, humpback whales assemble in lower latitude sub-tropical or tropical waters to mate and to calve. Although researchers still don’t understand why whales migrate to these winter grounds, it appears to be more for physical than biological characteristics. Most breeding grounds are warmer, shallower, and more protected than summer feeding areas, which may offer increased protection for mothers and their newborn calves. The dense congregation of whales that assemble in these winter grounds also brings together males and females, who may feed in different areas during the summer.
It is during the mating season that one can enjoy the beautiful Whale "songs". Whale song is the sound made by whales to communicate. Whales often travel in groups and and you can often see them with their calves.
There are several companies around the islands who offer visitors the chance to observe these animals up close. View below an amazing video from a tourist who was fortunate to swim up close while scuba diving near Salt Cay.
|Last Updated on Saturday, 17 January 2009 12:58|