Home News Local news EAST Members Hoping 2007 Will Be Banner Year for Whale Watching

EAST Members Hoping 2007 Will Be Banner Year for Whale Watching

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Jan. 31, 2007 – Although last year was disappointing, 2007 could be an "exciting year" for whale watching, according to Carla Joseph, president of the Environmental Association of St. Thomas-St. John (EAST), which offers whale-watching excursions to the public each year.
Since none of the massive mammals have been spotted in the last two years, this third year may just be a charm. You can never tell. Joseph told folks on board last year, "The possibility of us seeing a whale is not guaranteed – we're out in the wild; this is not Sea World."
The catamaran Jolly Mon will take watchers this year, leaving the National Park Dock in Red Hook at 9 a.m. on Feb. 11 and 25, and March 4 and 11. It's almost a full day sail. The boat returns about 3 p.m.
Joseph says the 60-foot catamaran will head out north of Lovongo and Tobago cays because those are popular whale-watching areas, but weather and sightings closer to the event may change those plans.
Eco-guide Becky Dayhuff, an EAST member and certified diving instructor who has guided watches for more than 20 years in local waters as well as those off New England and Alaska, will tell folks about the habits of whales, dolphins, sea birds and other marine life.
A close-up look at marine life will be provided in the afternoon, when the catamaran will moor at one of the cays for a half hour or so for some snorkeling, Joseph said.
Watchers should bring snorkel gear, a light lunch, plenty of water, sunscreen, and Dramamine if seasickness is an issue.
February and March are the most popular months for whale watching in the Caribbean. At one point, the Atlantic humpback population was around 150,000, Dayhuff told folks last year. By the 1960s, the population had decreased to about 5,000 due to whale hunting.
Marine biologists think there are around 10,000 humpback whales in Atlantic waters now. They are considered a "threatened" species but are not endangered. Humpback whales and other types come to warmer waters to breed and calve, returning to cooler waters in the spring.
The trip costs $55 for EAST members, and $65 for nonmembers. Tickets can be purchased at Dockside Bookshop in Havensight or East End Secretarial Service in Red Hook. For further information, call 774-1837.
A Whale of a Tale in Crown Bay
Though certainly not an area where EAST would conduct a whale watch, it turns out all the nearby whales aren't in the Atlantic — at least according to several observers who saw one of the critters in Crown Bay in February of 2000.
A crew member aboard the tugboat Alpha, on the morning of Feb. 19, hailed Capt. Ray Mathison to take a look at a spout of water rising about 10 feet into the air nearby. The whale, at the entrance to Krumm Bay, then swam into Crown Bay, where the tug personnel saw it again, the tail visible this time. ?Mathison alerted V.I. Radio, the local marine radio clearinghouse, to the presence of the animal, both to inform the curious and to warn boaters under way to proceed with caution in the area. ?Mathison's first description of the animal's size was, "Well, let's say it'd give you a heck of a fight on a fly rod." He estimated its length at about 40 feet and said it may have been a humpback and appeared to be in good health.
No other Crown Bay sightings have been reported in the last six years.
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