Signs of Spring, Socorro '08

One of the most exciting times of the year for our crew and passengers on the Solmar V is the transition from Whaling Season (mid January through mid April) to Spring Season.

Since air temperatures do not change very much over the seasons in Socorro, finding those first signs of Spring happens underwater. And we see these signs every April and May. Water Temperature gradually warms to mid/late 70's, reaching 80 degrees in mid May, a sure signal Whale Sharks are either here or close. The large group of whales which migrate to Socorro for the winter season each year also begin their long migration back to the waters of Western Canada.

But the humpbacks do not arrive or leave as an entire group, giving insights into the abilities of these majestic 35 ft. animals to undertake an immense open ocean migration in small groups. Sometimes as small as a cow, her calf, and another adult whale known as an escort.

Why? Humpbacks give birth at different times during whaling season, and the calves must learn certain swimming and breathing skills before undertaking the migration. Perhaps more importantly, they must reach a certain size (they are almost 10 ft, 3m long at birth). While they grow rapidly, enriched by gargantuan amounts of mother's milk, each Spring we see several groups of whales reluctant to depart, even in late April.

Some of our best encounters with Humpbacks, particularly underwater, occur during Spring Season.  Humpbacks guard their very young calves quite protectively, but within several weeks after birth, the growing calves are inquisitive and their mothers not as concerned. After all, they've got to make a 2,000 mile ocean voyage, so they better learn to "cross the street" pretty quickly!

There are other signs of Spring in Socorro, as well. Besides seeing an increase in Whale Sharks, we also see a distinct change in wild dolphin behavior. Closer, longer encounters, and while no one has the scientific evidence to back it up, we know it's breeding time for the wild dolphins in May. The males "pose" in front of females, and even divers! Nothing pornographic, simply a pose (nose down, typically) to show off their overall size in the hopes of being selected.

For the mantas, we see no changes in behavior. They are year long residents, and usually always happy to dive with us. For those not familiar with giant mantas and Socorro, these very close encounters with the 20 ft. gentle giants, repeated frequently at our special manta sites, may be the best manta diving experience, ever.

We've also noted an uptick in Hammerhead behavior in Spring Season, but looking back over the logs we can't really predict it in April or May. As usual, independent of season or water temperature, sometimes the Hammers are schooling, and other times you see them in smaller "gangs", 3 to 12 at a time. For the rest of our shark friends (Galapagos, Silkies, White Tips), just another day at the office during the season changes.   
As we do each Spring in Socorro, we'll hit the water looking for all of the subtle changes that tell us "Spring is Here" in the Revillagigedos Archipelago.

This article is from the Solmar V eNEWS Article Archive

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