Every year around the 15th of January, like clockwork, the famous Humpback whales of Samana arrive, having traveled all the way from the North Atlantic to relax and frolic in the warm waters of the Caribbean, a bit like you and me!
Of course it’s not just vacation time for them, they are also here to mate and give birth to their 1.5 ton calves which can often be seen next to their mothers, consuming up to 50 gallons of rich milk (50-60% fat) daily. Calves born here were likely conceived here the year before, as the gestation period is 11.5 months.
Humpbacks feed almost exclusively in the summer months when they can be found in the northernmost and southernmost cold arctic waters, rich in krill, plankton and small fish. Krill, tiny crustaceans found in abundance in the world’s cold waters, and plankton are filtered through an array of balene plates found in the whale’s upper mouth. Humpbacks are ‘Balene’ whales, which feed by taking in huge gulps of sea water and pushing the water back out through the balene filter system in a process called ‘filter feeding’. The krill and other food is trapped by the filtration system consisting of bristles between the plates. Balene was once more commonly called ‘whalebone’, famously used in corset stays and petticoats when these were fashionable. Humpback whales rarely feed at all during the winter months, generally surviving on their fat reserves during the time they can be found in the Bay of Samana.