They’re BAAAACCCCKKK!

DSC_0051This just in…today (Tuesday, 11/4), guests aboard our Dolphin Watch Adventure Cruise on Manu Iwa got to see the first Humpbacks of the season off the Kohala Coast!
Captain Will reports that at 8:30 am, just as the cruise was departing from Anaeho’omalu Bay, his crew (Captain Ryan) saw two flukes about 1/2 mile off shore.
Captain Will headed the boat out to sea, and 17 1/2 minutes after Ryan observed the dive, the 2 Humpbacks surfaced and spent almost a minute with us, swimming about 120 yards from our boat!
According to Captain Will, lots of guests had cameras with BIG lenses…and got some good photos of the whales. When we get the pictures, we’ll post them on our Facebook page.
We’ll begin running our official Whale Watch Cruises on December 1. But until then, join us on any of our catamaran cruises and you may be lucky enough to welcome those early arrivers to our coastline!
It’s official…the 2014/2015 Humpback Whale Season has begun!!

A Hui Ho Humpbacks!

Aloha,
On our last day of the 2013/2014 Whale Season, we were delighted to see our favorite pod — Mom and her calf — on our Breakfast with the Whales Cruise. Despite the wind, these two whales were curious about us and surfaced twice fairly close to us. The first time, they were about 100 yards away, and the second time, about 200 yards away. We got to see baby’s flukes, and Mom’s peduncle as they dived below. We wish them well on their journey back to Alaska and hope to see them again next season. A Hui Ho Humpbacks! It’s been great watching you and having you watch and play with us.
And I’d like to say Mahalo Nui Loa for reading these reports and sharing them with our guests. I appreciated all your comments this season, and look forward to sharing our 2014/2015 Humpback Whale Season with you!
Claire
Captain Claire’s End-of-the-Season Humpback Fact of the Day: Our North Pacific Humpback Whale population seems to be thriving. Before the whaling days in the early 19th century, researchers estimate the Humpback population to have been about 20,000 — they base this estimate on reports from whalers. In 1966, when humans finally stopped killing Humpbacks and began counting them, the population was estimated to be only around 1400. When I began working as a naturalist on whale watch tours a little more than 20 years ago, the population was estimated to be around 5000 (which was great news, because it meant the regulations put in place to protect the Humpbacks seemed to be working — the population had more than tripled). In 2008, when the SPLASH project released their initial population count results, these researchers estimated the North Pacific Humpback population to be around 20,000 — and they observed that the population was increasing by 5.5% to 6% every year!

Windy, but we are Still Seeing Whales

Aloha,
The winds were pretty crazy on Monday, but we did manage to find whales on our Breakfast with the Whales Cruise. As usual when it’s really windy, it was difficult to get anywhere near the whales, but Captain Will did an exceptional job maneuvering the boat, and onboard naturalists Mike and Logan were able to fill the guests in on all the information we’ve shared with you all season in these reports. Guests saw some spouts (though they dissipated really quickly in the wind) and some dorsal fins and flukes. We just have one more day for our Whale Watch season, so I’ll send my end of the year report to you tomorrow.
Mahalo,
Claire
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: Not all whaling activity occurred during the “golden age of whaling” at the beginning of the 19th century. Based on catch records corrected for illegal Soviet whaling, a total of more than 200,000 Humpback Whales were killed in the Southern Hemisphere from 1904 to 1980. Also, Illegal Soviet takes of 25,000 Humpback Whales in two seasons (1959/60 and 1960/61) precipitated a population crash and the closure of land stations in Australia and New Zealand.

Singing Humpbacks

Aloha, Our last weekend of whale watching started out great. On Friday’s Breakfast with the Whales, we spent the whole cruise about a mile off shore of Buddha Point (at the Hilton Waikoloa Village). We had a singer very close by – so close that we could hear his song reverberating through the hulls of the boat without dropping the hydrophone. Of course we wanted to see what it would sound like when we did drop the microphone. It was incredible.click here and you can hear it too. We also got to watch a couple of whales swim under us (visibility was excellent – we could see them 60 feet below us). Throughout the course of this cruise, we saw 4 different Humpbacks multiple times. The wind shut us out on Sunday, but we did see some splashing going on far out to sea while we were waiting on shore. We’ll be running Whale Watches thru Tuesday, so you still have time to join us this season! Mahalo, Claire
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day:  Since 1991, Whale Watchers off the coast of Australia have been seeing an all-white Humpback. They named him “Migaloo”, which is the aboriginal word for “white fella”, and DNA samples taken from skin he sloughed off into the water after a breach confirmed that he is, in fact, a male. He was believed to be the only all white Humpback in the world until September 2011, when an all-white Humpback calf was spotted off of the Australian Coast. Whale watchers named him “Migaloo Jr.”, and researchers are trying to determine if this little calf is related to Migaloo Senior. Up until very recently, researchers assumed that Migaloo was a true albino whale, but now he’s considered to be “hypo-pigmented” since they aren’t totally sure he produces absolutely no pigment (his eyes may have color). And yes…Migaloo does have problems with the sun. Whale Watchers in Australia have noted the poor guy does get quite the sunburn. In November 2012, another white Humpback was spotted off the coast of Norway!

Humpback Migratory Changes

Aloha,
After searching and searching and searching, we finally found one whale just outside of the harbor on Thursday’s 10:00 am Whale Watch. We did find it kind of ironic that we drove all over the place looking for Humpbacks only to find one right where we started! It was a totally different story for us on our Whales & Cocktails Cruise. We found our first whale about 5 minutes after we left the bay. We watched this Humpback spout twice, and then he was joined by another whale who wasn’t quite as peaceful. Whale number 2 did a couple of peduncle throws, landing right on top of whale number one. We could hear them both trumpeting (breathing really hard) when they surfaced. We got to see a few more partial peduncle throws, and then they did a deeper dive showing us their flukes (one was almost all white). We thought the show might be over, but then a third whale surfaced and started swimming towards our duo. At this point, all three began swimming and surfacing around our boat, and they were so close to the surface that we could see the turquoise reflection off their white pectoral fins (which makes them appear to be glowing). They made almost a complete circle of us before swimming on. But it wasn’t over yet. We saw 7 more whales throughout the course of the charter, bringing us to a grand total of 10 Humpbacks…on a charter on April 10th (the season isn’t over yet folks)! When we deployed the hydrophone, we did hear some singing (but it was pretty faint).
Mahalo and have a great weekend!
Claire
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day:  It is very possible that Humpback Whales did not migrate to Hawaii prior to the “golden age of whaling” in the 1820’s. Not only have we not discovered fossilized remains of Humpbacks on the islands from before that time, we’ve never found petroglyphs of Humpbacks from before the 1820’s either. Also, there’s no word in the Hawaiian language for the Humpback whale (though there is a word for whale – Kohola). No commercial whaling occurred in Hawaii, though whalers did re-provision and spend the winters in Hawaii (especially in Lahaina). And…most interesting is the fact that no mention of humpback whales has been found in the log books of whaling ships anchored off Lahaina – and the whalers were paying attention to the presence of whales, since any whale taken meant MONEY. Perhaps the whaling taking place in the North Japan Sea at that time forced the Humpbacks to find new migratory destinations eventually bringing them to our shores.

Humpback Sexual Harrassment Avoidance Techniques

Aloha,

We only ran one Whale Watch Cruise on Wednesday. but it was a good one. Guests on our Breakfast with the Whales Cruise saw 5 different whales. We spent most of the beginning of the cruise with 3 surface-active whales. Two of them were tail-lobbing, peduncle throwing, and pec slapping right on top of each other. While we were watching, a third whale made a b-line right towards all the activity. We must have seen 9 peduncle throws and more than a dozen tail lobs (only two pec slaps though). The peduncle thrower was also the whale who was doing all those tail lobs (and they were backwards tail lobs too…s/he was hitting the dorsal side of his tail on the surface). The other whale was lying on his/her side and showed us two pectoral slaps before diving. About the time the third whale reached the others, they all spouted and took a long dive. And then…they disappeared from us. We stayed in the area for a long time before seeing two more whales further out on the horizon.

Mahalo,

Claire

Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: Today I have to report on some very recently published research findings. Dr. Alison Craig and her associates observed that female Humpbacks in Hawaii with calves in tow swim 75% faster when they’re being chased by males in deep water than when they’re being chased in shallow water. As water depth decreased so did the number of males following the mother, making  females most likely to be found alone with their calves in the shallows. So why is this observation important?
 Dr. Craig suggests that it is unwanted male attention which causes the females and calves to  increase their swimming speed, in turn requiring the  mothers to supply their calves with more  milk to compensate for the extra energy they’ve used. Since the females aren’t feeding in Hawaii, the researchers theorize that these female Humpbacks are actually seeking shallow water not to avoid predators…but to avoid sexual harassment from male Humpbacks!

Humpback Population Growing

Aloha,
Our winds are not subsiding, so we only got to run one Whale Watch at 10:00 am on Tuesday. We did see a few Humpbacks — mostly their tails, dorsal fins and spouts. But we also got to see the Humpbacks’ littler cousins when a pod of Spinner Dolphins found us. We always think it’s difficult to estimate the number of dolphins in these Spinner pods, and today’s group was no exception. We know there were a LOT of dolphins though, and we saw both big adults and some small calves. Some of the pod came over to ride our wake, and the rest of them swam alongside. We saw quite a few arculate leaps, some full-on end-over-end spins, lots of twists, and some tail lobs. We even got to hear the dolphins’ distinct whistles as they cruised on our bow.
Mahalo,
Claire
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: According to research results released by the SPLASH Project (Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpback Whales in the North Pacific – a research project involving more than 400 researchers in 10 countries) in 2008, there were approximately 18,000 – 20,000 Humpbacks living in the North Pacific, with the population wintering in Hawaii seeing a 5.5% – 6% annual rate of increase since the early 1990′s

Bartley – Modern Day Jonah or Modern Day Liar?

Aloha,
The wind came up during our 10:00 Whale Watch on Monday, so even though we did see splashes from two different Humpbacks several miles from shore, we had to turn the boat around and bring everyone in after only 20 minutes of cruising…so I don’t have much to report. Instead, enjoy this story from Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact Archives.
In the 1890′s, a whaler with very pale and mottled skin named James Bartley claimed that he had been swallowed by a Sperm Whale. He had been pursuing the whale off the coast of the Falkland Islands when he was thrown from his boat and presumed lost at sea. According to Bartley, two days later, shipmates on The Star of the East killed a Sperm whale, and lo and behold — found him in the whale’s stomach!
Supposedly, Bartley was a “raving lunatic” for several weeks, but then recovered enough to remember the experience — enough that he was able to make a modest living travelling with an exhibit of a stuffed Sperm Whale. Bartley claimed his skin was permanently damaged from the whale’s gastric juices.
 The story of this” modern day Jonah” was very popular in religious tracts and broadcasts, but has since been debunked. Not only was the Star of the East not a whaling boat, but there was no record of a James Bartley even working on the ship. Even James’ wife claimed the story was “a good yarn”.
Mahalo,
Claire

Still “Whale Soup” in Hawaiian Waters

Aloha,
The whales were out in force this weekend. On Friday’s afternoon Whale Watch on Seasmoke, guests saw 5 different Humpbacks. At first we just got to see some spouts, but when we got to the area where the spouts were, a lone adult surfaced about 50 yards from us turning out to sea. We thought that was kind of interesting — wondering what he was swimming away from and then a pod of two adult humpbacks surfaced right behind us. We saw dorsal fins, spouts, and flukes from all three of these whales. On our way back to the bay, we found another pod of two and just as I was explaining that we don’t always see a breach on every trip, one of the whales breached not once, but twice! On Friday’s Whales and Cocktails Cruise, we found a pod of 3 – Mom, baby and escort. This pod surfaced several times near us, and while we were watching them, we saw spouts from two more adult whales closer to shore.
Guests on Saturday’s Breakfast with the Whales Cruise used just one word to describe the trip: “AWESOME”. For almost the entire cruise, we were escorted by two big adult whales who decided to swim directly under us and along side. At one point one of them came between the hulls (we were adrift), and did a fluke dive right in front of the bow. Seasmoke is a pretty big catamaran – 58 feet long and 23 feet wide – but when that whale lifted his flukes right in front of us, we felt really, really small.
On Sunday’s Breakfast with the Whales, we saw a dozen different Humpbacks (which is a lot for this late in the season). We had one very close encounter, and several pretty close encounters with whales who were interested in us. We also got to see one head lunge. And on our Whales and Cocktails Cruise on Sunday, we saw 6 different Humpbacks, including one sub-adult who breached twice, and another bigger whale who tail lobbed a few times. When we deployed the hydrophone, we heard a Humpback symphony! And actually, three guests on board heard whale sounds after we had already pulled the hydrophone out of the water
Mahalo,
Claire
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day According to research conducted by the Nelson Institute of Marine Research, a Humpback’s heart beats an average of 40bpm, but the whales do experience periods of tachycardia and bradycardia during dives.

Whale vs. Shark

Aloha,
Wow, was it ever windy in Waikoloa on Thursday, so  windy that we were only able to run our Breakfast with the Whales Cruise from Anaeho’omalu Bay. Before the guests arrived, we did see a few splashes a couple miles off shore from the bay so we knew there were some breachers out there. Once we got everyone on board, Captain Shane decided to take the boat north. On the way up the coast, we saw several flukes from whales who had surfaced to breath and then dove down to calm water. We never did get to our breachers — and the spouts from all the diving whales we saw dissipated really quickly in the wind. But we know there are still plenty of whales around the island, and on Friday, we’ll go out looking again.
Mahalo, and have a great weekend,
Claire
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: Do you know the easiest way to distinguish whether that big creature swimming rapidly towards you is a whale or a shark? Watch the way it swims…whales propel themselves through the water by moving their tails up and down vertically. Sharks and other fish move their tails from side to side. Aristotle was the first person to document this difference around 350 B.C. – hopefully you’ll never need to use this information for anything other than winning a trivia contest