2019 Migratory Whale Season begins!Saturday, 13th April 2019
By Jake Keeton
Our Whale/Dolphin/Penguin Island Cruise that took place this last Saturday, 13 April turned out to be a special one for both crew and guests, marking the start of the 2019 migratory whale season for Raggy Charters.
The excitement levels among the crew during the moments prior to exiting the harbour were at an all time high, a result of motionless windsocks, glassy waters, reports of dolphins and pleasant guests eager to get out into into our bay. We set off on a deep route towards St Croix island keeping an eye out for any disturbances on the mirror like water. I explained to our guests that the combination of light winds and overcast conditions played in our favor for spotting marine life as anything that broke the surface would stand out from the Grey background.
We were just a few miles short of the island enjoying the smooth ride when we spotted a large disturbance off to our port side (left side), we headed in that direction and stopped when we thought we were in the right spot. After a short wait we were overtaken by excitement and disbelief as the back of a large whale broke the surface lacking a dorsal fin, a characteristic that is unique to Southern Right Whales. Thinking that it is too early in the year for there to be a Southern Right whale in our waters we were skeptical and edged a bit closer for a better look, a few moments later the whale surfaced a second time to take a breath letting out a large v-shaped blow and showing us the callosities on its face confirming that it was indeed a Southern Right Whale. I immediately went for my bag to get my camera and as i did so I heard shouts of delight from everyone on board and looked up to see only the large splash of the whale re-entering the water after breaching. I got ready hoping it would happen a second time, kicking myself because I know this particular species does not breach often. Much to our delight the large specimen proceeded to breach two more times showing us just how large these animals are and allowing me to get these pictures.
It is unusual to see Southern Right Whales this early in the year as we normally only see them from the end of June through to September. I guess this guy just could not wait to pay us a visit and hopefully we will see him/her again on our up and coming cruises. Just like Humpback Whales Southern Rights make the long migration up from their summer feeding grounds in the South Seas to the warmer waters of our coast to have their calves and mate. The calves are born without sufficient blubber to keep them warm in the cold waters down South. Once these whales have given birth they stay in our waters allowing the calves time to grow and become strong enough to make the long swim back to their feeding grounds.
Just as we thought the day could not get any better we came across a pod of over 300 Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins near St Croix island, putting the cherry on top of what was already an unforgettable morning for everyone on board.