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The humpback whales of Salt Cay, Turks and Caicos Islands and Silver Bank are North Atlantic Humpback Whales, and are some of the same individuals one might encounter on a whale watching cruise off of Massachusetts' Stellwagan Bank, the coast of Maine, and further north into the waters of Iceland and Greenland, Newfoundland and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

Salt Cay, Turks and Caicos Islands is in the middle of the humpback whale’s annual migratory route to the Silver Banks, a humpback mating and nursery area, north of the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Sea. It is a 75 square mile shallow coral reef area, an underwater plateau of limestone. It is believed that the whales choose this area for birthing and nursing because of the numerous coral heads which break the surface providing protection from ocean swells. Some estimates show 3,000-5,000 humpback whales passing through the waters of the Silver Banks between December and mid-April each year, making it the largest breeding and calving grounds, often called a nursery, in the world.

Great Sand Cay, about 9 miles south of Salt Cay, has been the “emergency room” to many expecting humpback whales through the years. Humpback whales born in the waters around Great Sand Cay and their mothers as well as other humpback whales are often spotted both by passengers on boats and from the shores of Salt Cay.

Click on a humpback whale picture to view the larger image.
(The island in the background of these pictures is Salt Cay!)
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Humpback whales are active, acrobatic whales. They can throw themselves completely out of the water (breaching) and swim on their backs with both flippers in the air. They also enjoy “tail lobbing” (raising their huge flukes out of the water and then slapping it on the surface) and “flippering” (using their flippers to slap the water). It is not uncommon to be able to stand on shore or in a boat and watch humpback whales playing for 30 minutes or more.

Divers and snorkelers in the waters around Salt Cay enjoy listening to the “songs” of the humpback whales. A typical song lasts from 10-20 minutes. Singing humpback whales are males and the songs may be a part of mating behavior.

(Note from the webmistress - January 24th 2009, I watched whales swimming off the "Wall"  with a few friends off of a beach on the West side of the island. I jumped onto my kayak and paddled out to within about 30-40 feet of them and cruised slowly South with the baby, mother and "friend" humpback whale.  I was reluctant to turn back, but as the end of the island approached I headed back for land.  This was truly an experience that I hope may one day be repeated.)

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Photo Credit © Sue Rocca and WCDS.org, 2007

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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