Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive! - Vol. XII No. 1 - January 2003


Humpback Whales Returning to the Caribbean

By Paul Knapp, Jr., CSI Board


A very special event of the North Atlantic Ocean is starting to take place once again as thousands of humpback whales are swimming from their northern feeding grounds to the Caribbean. All summer they had been working at eating and gaining weight - which could be their equivalent of putting money in the bank. Now, many will spend it during their breeding, singing, calving cycle. In the tropical waters, less nutritive than northern waters, they will eat little to nothing, using their reserve of the weight they worked so hard to gain.

Looking forward to their southerly arrival are increasing numbers of whale watchers and whale listeners: from the Turks and Caicos Islands to Samana Bay, Dominican Republic, to the Virgin Islands, Dominica, etc. Much of the loveliness of their arrival back in the Caribbean is unseeable, only hearable. Dive and snorkel operators will soon be alerting their customers to what they might hear, or just heard. Snorkelers in certain areas, down 5 to 10 feet, can often hear best. Hydrophone listening from the comfort of a boat, either motor or sail, is also on the rise as word spreads. Humpbacks are audible for about 10 miles underwater, so if you're in a good spot, there's an excellent chance to hear them. It's a great event when many Caribbean waters are filled with singing, some so beautiful and compelling to nearly stop us all to listen.

Brewers Bay, Tortola

Brewers Bay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Offshore whale singing can sometimes be heard by snorkelers
in the bay. Best time to try: all February into mid-March.

Whale listening boat

A whale listening boat can be of any size!

(Photos courtesy Paul Knapp, Jr.)


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