29th April 08 We moor on Challenger Banks at 2am Print E-mail
Written by Andrew Stevenson   


A singing humpback whale comes and sits under our boat.

After recording whales singing throughout the day and evening we head back to Challenger under a perfectly clear sky. The further we get from Bermuda the brighter the stars become. Phosphoresence is in the water and as we cross the canyon the phosphorescence becomes more pronounced until it looks like a snowstorm in the black waters surrounding the boat. It is eerily quite out here so far from shore. At 2 am we finally moor Sea Slipper on a fisherman's mooring on the crown at Challenger Banks some twenty miles to the southwest of Bermuda in some 160 feet of water. It's a perfectly flat, oily calm sea, perfect for staying the night out on the open ocean. We take recordings of the singing whales throughout the night until dawn when we slip our moorings and try recording humpbacks on the western edge of Challenger, in the middle of the 'canyon', and on the flats on the shelf of Sally Tuckers. Back on Challenger we find a humpback under our boat and he remains there absolutely still, in the classic singer's position, pectoral fins outstretched and head slightly down. Is this the whale we have been recording? We also manage to get some fluke id shots for Allied Whale and we do get some additional underwater video of a pod. We take photographs of four very playful whales one of whom put on spectacular displays of body lobbing. Chris Burville, who was out there at the time confirms that one of the whales defecated, further indication that the whales are feeding here.






Detailed notes taken and submitted by Camilla Stringer.

Monday 28th April and Tuesday 29th on Sea Slipper.



Leave Darrell’s Wharf on Mike Smith’s Sea Slipper, with Andrew Stevenson & Camilla Stringer on board.  We stop at Watford Bridge to pick up Dawn Mortimer and head out to Sally Tucker’s.


There are five fishing boats on Sally Tucker’s when we see the first whale – a breach in the distance.


Mike calls Michael Barnes on Vitamin Sea who says that there are whales on Challenger.  Andrew and Mike decide to leave Sally Tucker’s rather than wait to see if we can find the whale that had breached.


Dolphins join the Sea Slipper and enjoy bow riding.  Five or six dolphins take it in turns, including a young dolphin about half the size of the largest.  We are about halfway between Sally Tucker’s and Challenger at N32 08 678 W65 01 598.


Mike and Andrew see a spout on the horizon – the whale seems to be heading west.


A fluke is visible about ½ a mile off.


There are 3 spouts visible to starboard – it seems there are two groups of whales.


Another spout and a fluke is seen about ½ a mile off.  We maintain our course.


A spout is seen twice about 100 yards away from the boat.  Two more spouts are seen then the whales dive – they seem to be heading away. N32 05 204 W64 04 216


We see a blow and then a fluke.  It seems that at least 3 whales are logging or just under the surface. 


2 blows show twice.  We are on the crown, in 150ft of water.  The whales appear to be sleeping.  We see at least one whale ½ a mile to the west.


The four whales we have been watching blow and dive.  Mike and Andrew get fluke shots.


A whale surfaces behind us, moving slowly forward.


Three whales are logging, and slowly rolling over and waving their pectoral fins in the air.  They dive very slowly, showing their flukes.  They surface shortly afterwards, and we can see them just under the surface for a couple of minutes.  The water does not appear to be as clear as it was at Sally Tucker’s.


A whale surfaces to starboard, and there is a huge spout.


A whale with a very mangled dorsal fin surfaces close to the boat, and we get photos of the whale’s back and fluke.


Dawn sees a whale swim slowly beneath the boat.  Andrew gets into the water.  Another whale surfaces 500 yards off on the port side.


Another spout to port.  Andrew puts the hydrophone into the water.


We have been listening the whales singing.  Andrew starts track #3.


Dawn sights whales close to port.  The whale with the mangled dorsal fin surfaces several times and then dives.  Andrew gets into the water. They see a whale stationary below them – the boat is drifting and since Andrew is holding on to a buoy attached to the boat, he also drifts away from the whale – could it be the one we have heard singing? He has the classic singing position, motionless, head slightly down, pectoral fins out to the side.


A whale dives 250 yards to port.


We are heading back to the crown.


We tie up to a mooring.  There are two whales 200 yards ahead of us. 

Record Track # 15.


Four spouts are visible on the horizon.


We see a spout, and then a fluke as the whale dives, 400 yards to the southeast.  Track # 35.  We are now on the crown of Challenger.


Tail visible – 400 yards southeast.


Breach  - 300 yards southeast.


Spout - 300 yards southeast.


Recording # 16


We leave the mooring.  See a blow 300 yards away.


Another blow in the same place.


Record track # 17.  We are now moored again.


Blow x 2 and fluke show approx 200 yards away.


Another pod of whales appear – at least 3 whales – heading east.


The whale with the mangled dorsal fin surfaces close to starboard.


The whales on the port surface twice heading in the direction of Sally Tucker’s.


We are on the northeast corner of Challenger Bank.  Andrew makes recording # 18.  #21 is made in the canyon.  N 32 09 411 W65 00 696.


We watch the sun set.  As the light fades the sky is filled with stars – with little light pollution the sky is crowned with pinpricks of light.  The phosphorescence is incredible.  Ballyhoo swim beside the boat leaping from the water in the torchlight.  We reach our intended mooring, but find it tangled – it wasn’t like that when we checked it during the day.  As Andrew and Mike pull the rope up they discover the reason.  Someone has tied large hooks to the mooring baited with fish heads.  A 4 –5 foot shark has been hooked and has drowned.  It has obviously thrashed and twisted in an attempt to free itself tangling the rope round and round.  It is a sad time, and our spirits are dampened.  We decide to leave the area.


Track # 26.


Track # 28.


Tuesday morning. Track # 34.


We moor up. N32 04 619 W65 03 325.  Dawn and Andrew stay up and watch the moon rise at 3 am.


Michael and Camilla get up, whilst the others go to get some sleep.


Track # 37


We decide to leave the mooring.  Andrew and Dawn wake up.


Dawn and I are looking behind the boat.  A whale surfaces and blows about 50 feet away. It is the whale with the damaged dorsal fin.  Perhaps this was the whale we had been listening to during the night.  A perfect start to the day.


Sunrise.  We head back to Sally Tucker’s.


We stop and try the hydrophone again – there is silence.  We continue back to Sally Tucker’s.


Right on the edge we see a fluke quite near to 3 fishing boats.


We leave the grapple hook we had left earilier the day before after Dawn has unsuccessfully dived to try to free it.


We are on the point of Sally Tucker’s, along with 5 fishing boats.


Two whales surface, their pectoral fins are visible below the surface.


The whales seem to be sleeping.  It looks like a mother and calf, as one is much smaller than the other.  We turn on the hydrophone – track # 45, but can hear no singing. 


There is a blow about ¾ of a mile away.  We head in the direction.  We see another blow, closer now.  Our position is N3206 641 W65 02 527.  There are two more blows and some splashes.  We can’t quite make out what is happening just below the water.


We see another blow.  Chris Burville arrives with three friends.


One of the whales is blowing bubbles underwater.  Andrew gets in the water.  Andrew begins to film.


Andrew back on board.  The whales are still near the boat.  The water is very clear.  We can easily see the pectoral fins as the whales glide around and under the boat.


Hydrophone track # 46.


Chris Burville moves off following the whales, but the pod has spilt and one whale stays very close to our boat, surfacing and blowing.


We are still with the whales.  Our position is N32 65 178 W65 02 513.


We listen with the hydrophone.  Track # 47.  Andrew changes the card – 2GB card track # 1.


A whale surfaces just in front of Chris’ boat.


Track # 3.  A whale breaches to port.


Spouts.  There are at least four whales moving around the two boats.  Mostly they seem very relaxed.  Occasionally we see S curves carved through the water with their tails.  There is some pec slapping by one whale.


Tail lobbing.


Two of the whale surface close to the boat.  The blow several times.


More tail lobbing. 


The whales move off.  It is time to head for home so we watch the whales leave. 



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