Yesterday was an absolutely incredible day for many boaters, residents and whale watchers on St. John! We were out on a half day sail near Little St. James when the radio started going crazy with Coast Guard recognition of a small pod of whales off of St. John’s North Shore. I pulled up Facebook (yes, it IS good for some things!) and saw the alerts from other boaters. “Whales spotted on the North Shore heading towards Lovango.” That was at about 1PM yesterday. As the afternoon went on, more and more friends and comrades began posting videos and photos of their encounters. Unfortunately, we were passing them like ships in the night, so none of these photos are my own (I was almost crying at the end of the day, LOL). But, check out the following for some pictures, snaps from videos and info on how to properly conduct yourself in the event of one of these magical encounters!
Cover photo: Steve Simonsen Photography – February, 2021
Last year, we heard of a couple of whale encounters in mid-January, but wasn’t until about late February to early March that these sightings began popping up in abundance. (Read the post for info on the Caribbean migration of Humpbacks). Well, this year, they are early to the party here in the Virgin Islands, with one of the first videos popping up from Low Key Watersports on New Years Eve….
The whales that migrate through the USVI are quick to do so, but they surely enjoy putting on a show as they move through the passage, the sound and onward to the south!
Ok, so, we heard that the whales were moving from St. John towards Lovango Cay in the early afternoon yesterday. About an hour later, they were spotted by Kelly & Stephen of Singing Dog Sailing just off of Cabrita Point…Near Red Hook on St. Thomas.
As we departed Little St. James on Asante en route to St. Thomas to drop off our guests, we begrudgingly read yet another update. “Whales moving south from St. James. Those elusive “little” guys were literally on our tracks all day. But, as I said to our guests who were anxious to see them, “If it’s our day, they will be apparent to us. If not, it wasn’t meant to be.” And, apparently, yesterday wasn’t our day. But, I am SO EXCITED for so many friends who got this amazing encounter yesterday. I even saw some folks say that they were able to see them from their balcony…So, even if you aren’t on a boat, keep an eye on the water!
Chances are good that this is just the beginning of these incredible migratory creatures dancing their beautiful dance through the waters surrounding the Virgin Islands. And, I hope that many of you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them while you are visiting this winter! However, as with all marine life, please keep your distance. In the instance of whales, 100 yards is recommended. Not just for their protection, but for your own as well! Encroaching vessels or people during an encounter could add stress to the whale and affect their behavior or migration patterns. In fact, “harassment” of any marine mammal (dolphins, whales, etc.) is actually illegal under the Marine Mammals Protection Act.
A 1994 addendum to the legislation prohibits “Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance, which has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.” – NOAA Fisheries
So, keep your eyes peeled and your cameras ready from a safe distance this winter! Fingers crossed that soon come I’ll be updating you with pictures of MY OWN! 🙂
Oh, and on the way home to St. John, we were greeted by a beautiful rainbow over Great Cruz Bay…Every day on the water in the USVI is a beautiful day!