Jack’s Knack

We are hoping to stay in Wales until the clocks to go back. Why? Internet school just doesn’t feel so early at 5:30am in the Caribbean compared to 4:30am.

5:30am Caribbean time is almost light. Classes finish just as sea turtles start popping their heads up. Still, Lulu doesn’t want to tell anyone in her class back in the UK.. in case they don’t believe her. She’s not dumb. ‘What would I say? Excuse me sir, but it’s sunrise and a hawksbill has just breached on our port side?’

‘Go on Lu,’ I pleaded. ‘Just tell them. It’s the truth.’

Lulu snorted. ‘No way. They’ll think I’m crazy!’

Maybe she’s right. Crazy or not, next season we want to sail to see the humpback whales. Between January and March, humpback whales aggregate in huge numbers off the Dominican Republic, seventy nautical miles north. They come to a piece of the Caribbean Sea called the Silver Bank. Even though there’s no land in sight, the Silver Bank is shallow, some of it only about eight metres deep. This is depth that Quest can anchor in, permit permitting. The waters form a marine park under the jurisdiction of the Dominican Republic. We’re hoping we can stay for a week or so to watch them.

The humpbacks come to the Silver Bank and to nearby Navidad Bank to breed and calve. They loll around for a few months in the warm waters, nursing and resting, before moving on. This has led to Jack uttering an unfortunate mantra to everyone we meet. He says, ‘We want to see the whales give birth.’

This made the girls and I wince. Not just us either. ‘Isn’t that kind of creepy?’ Lulu said eventually.

Jack stopped. He looked confused. ‘You guys think it’s creepy wanting to see whales give birth?’

Seeing another animal at its most intimate moment? Pain and Blood? We raised our eyebrows. ‘Uh huh.’

Thankfully since then he’s chilled out with the whole placenta peeping thing. He’s stopped telling everyone too. The whales can breathe a sigh of relief that Jack won’t be there with his camera while they pop their two-tonne babies out.

I’ve just discovered that in fact no one has recorded a humpback whale giving birth on film. It’s an event waiting to happen. Oh wait.. Jack will probably be the one who casually records the whole thing.

He has this knack you see. He found a waterproof camera in Barbados on the bottom of the sea bed after the cruise ship tourists went home. Snorkelled down to get it. He’s hoovered up endless masks and snorkels by nervous first-time snorkelers who’d long since disappeared. And he spotted an Apple Watch five metres down off a little island in the BVI. It still had ten percent battery life when we examined it. Luckily YouTube showed us how to unlock it after we ‘forgot’ the passcode. There was no one to give it back to!

Jack’s knack isn’t a new thing either. Twenty years ago, when I was studying for an exam for my degree in Zoology, Jack went scuba diving with a group of friends in Pembrokeshire. His group came back grinning.

‘What is it?’ my twenty-two-year old, fresh-faced, endless-energy self asked them. Sorry. Flashback.

Jack had discovered a species of nudibranch never seen in Pembrokeshire before. With photos to prove it. So perhaps the placenta peeping thing won’t be that unrealistic next season, even if it’s still creepy. A whale umbilical cord wrapped around Quest’s winch like a long, long line? Lulu’s 5:30am class might be in for a shock.


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