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Tuesday, September 27, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesTHAR' SHE BLOWS!

THAR' SHE BLOWS!

The annual humpback migration is in full swim.
And if you look carefully you might just spot one or two whales making their way south. Each winter the humpbacks leave northern feeding grounds to mate and give birth in the warm waters of the Caribbean. The migration typically peaks in mid-March and this year there have been plenty of sightings.
Last week a group led by the Environmental of Association of St. Thomas and St. John observed several whales north of Jost Van Dyke. The whales they spotted included what appeared to be a mating pair and what was certainly a mother and calf.
"The calf was probably born this season — it could be just weeks or even days old," said Carla Joseph, an EAST board member helping to lead the whale watching expedition. "The calf was very playful. He appeared to be imitating his mother. She would do something and then he would attempt the same move over and over again. The baby leaping out of the water was the high point of the day."
The Spirit of St. Christopher catamaran slowly the cruised the north drop for more than five hours with whales consistently in sight. The 40 passengers applauded the whales' antics and whale watcher David Burnette was able to capture several pictures of the playful whales as they jumped, breached, rolled, dived, spouted through their blowholes and flipped their tails out of the water.
You don't need a boat to see whales off the north coasts of St. Thomas and St.John. If you look carefully over the next couple of weeks you may see the humpbacks. Calm weather and binoculars do help. You most often spot the blow first. From a distance this looks like a small cloud or puff of smoke coming out of the water.
Keep watching and you may see a flip of the whale's massive tail or — most exciting of all — the whale may propel nearly its entire body out of the water. Marine biologists still aren't exactly sure why whales jump, or breach, in this way.
Whales can be spotted at other times of the year. Pilot, Gray and even Killer whales have been seen in Virgin Islands waters, though humpbacks are most often observed.
"We saw whales on both of the EAST sails this year," Joseph said. "It was really exciting. But people have also seen them from the beach or their porches. There have been a lot of reports made from the Mahogany Run area."
The humpback is one of the largest creatures on earth, with males typically reaching lengths of 50 or more feet. The females are just slightly smaller. After the humpbacks finish their Caribbean vacation, they return north for the summer to feed in the cold, plankton-rich Atlantic and Arctic seas. Their gestation period is one year so the whales are back in the Caribbean again at the same time next winter to give birth to the calves they conceived here the year before.
The V.I. Fish and Wildlife Division appreciates reports of whale sightings in order for its staff to better monitor the number of whales that actually pass through the territory. If you spot a whale call the department at (340) 775-6762.
Joseph says upcoming E.A.S.T activities include hikes, a night snorkel and a sail to observe seabirds nesting offshore accompanied by several expert bird watchers. For more information call (340) 776-1976.

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