Breaching, Head Lunging and Pec Slapping

Aloha,

Friday started out especially well for guests on our 10:00 Whale Watch from Kawaihae. Throughout the cruise, we saw a total of 8 different Humpbacks, but one of them — not fully grown, but not a calf — decided to breach 3 times just 120 yards from the boat. We all got to see those breaches, and a few of us got some great photos (hopefully someone will share with us). We also had a curious whale surface 50 yards in front of the boat while we were idling. After he dove, we sat in the same place for a long time, and lo and behold, the same whale surfaced at our stern. On Friday’s Whales and Cocktails, we found ourselves surrounded for awhile by 4 competitive whales. These guys were posturing for each other, trumpeting, pec-slapping, and even breaching. We saw 4 other whales during this cruise too, but we couldn’t take our eyes off the action from our first pod.
The highlight of Saturday’s 10:00 Cruise was a competitive pod of 5 whales. We watched them chase each other around, and saw some great head lunges and fluke dives before two of the group split off, dissolving the competition.
And on Sunday, we ran 4 cruises just for Whale Watching as well as our Snorkel and Sunset Cruises. We saw whales from all of the cruises. Highlights included sightings of 6 different Humpbacks during our Wake up With the Whales Cruise, a very young calf (with folded over dorsal fin) off shore of Hapuna Beach on our 10:00 Cruise, a big competitive pod with breaches and pec slaps on that same cruise, two whales who decided to swim underneath our idling boat on our way to the snorkel sight during our Snorkel Cruise, and sightings of 15 different whales on our Whales and Cocktails Cruise (including two breaches).
Mahalo,
Claire
 
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: We used to think that the whales that arrived on the coast of the Big Island spent their Hawaii-time here with us. Research and close observation of individuals has proven us wrong. While the Humpbacks seem to prefer to spend most of their time on the lee sides of islands and in water less than 600 feet deep, they will travel between the islands (not in any particular direction that we’re aware of)….females who have calves travel less frequently though.

First Competitive Pod, and Bottlenose Dolphins

Aloha,

I have to begin this update with an add-on from Wednesday. We got to witness our first competitive pod of the season during Wednesday night’s Sunset Cruise on Alala from Kawaihae. Throughout the course of the cruise, we saw about a dozen whales, but it was just outside of the harbor where we saw the wildest action. 5 whales were chasing each other, head lunging, charging, and trumpeting. One of them breached not one, not two, but three times just 50 feet from the boat! Un-bee-leiv-able!
We started out our Thursday with our Wake up With the Whales Cruise. Captain Jeff Baker reports an outstanding adventure..with pec slaps, a couple of breaches and even a couple of curious whales who swam right underneath us to take a look at us. On the 10:00 Cruise we got to see a mother and a calf (only the second calf we’ve seen this season). Baby was pretty curious about us, and when we stopped the boat, Mom let him swing by to take a good look at us. And on our Whales and Cocktails Cruise, we spent the 1st hour cruising around, but the second hour made up for it when we found two Humpbacks offshore of the Mauna Lani Resort area. These whales were surrounded by a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins. And the Bottlenose Dolphins were acting like Spinners – jumping, leaping and flipping. The whales didn’t seem nearly as interested or excited by the dolphins as we were.
Mahalo and have a great weekend. I’ll send out the weekend recap on Monday!
Claire
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: At birth, a Humpback whale calf weighs between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds which is between 3% and 4% of his Mom’s weight. Interestingly, at birth, human babies are proportionally larger, averaging  4%-5% of their Mom’s weight

Breach…and this time, we all saw it!

Aloha,

Our Wednesday 10:00 Signature Whale Watch allowed us to see two spectacular sights. First, we got to see a very large Humpback, just hanging at the surface for awhile. He  (or she — we weren’t sure) was very recognizable because of the large white racing stripe on his dorsal fin which was about a foot long and maybe a hand’s width wide. This whale spent a considerable time just sort of resting and spouting and finally dove, never to be seen by us again. And then…on the way back to the harbor, we were cruising along looking in all directions when a smaller humpback surfaced off our port bow. Of course we slowed to an idle and watched this guy spout a few times and dive. We figured that would be the last we’d see of him but he surprised us all by doing a full-on breach right in front of us. This whale was totally out of the water…tail and all…and unlike those breaches that happen far from us, everyone was looking in the right direction to see it! On our Whales and Cocktails Cruise, Captain Kealohi reports seeing a couple of different pods of spouting whales. These whales also appeared to be relaxing — we didn’t see any aggressive surface activity — but when we lowered our hydrophone, we heard some singing so we know those male humpbacks are arriving.
Mahalo,
Claire
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: All whales, regardless of species, age, or gender make noises. Only Humpback whales sing an organized song…and only male Humpbacks sing. We used to believe that the males only “sing” when they are in the warmer waters where they mate, though now that we’re listening more closely, we have heard the males singing a bit in their colder feeding waters (mostly at the end of feeding season prior to the beginning of the migration). So, is the male Humpback singing a mating song? Researchers have observed that female whales will not approach a singing male, so if this is a mating song, it seems to be a pretty ineffective one.

Chicken Skin

Aloha,

Tuesday started off very nicely for us and our guests. We saw 6 different humpbacks during our Wake Up with the Whales Cruise. 4 of them were hanging out together. We didn’t see any wild surface activity from any of these whales, so maybe they were enjoying the calm winds and sea conditions as much as we were. On our 10:00 Whale Watch out of Kawaihae, we got to see 5 different pods of two whales. We paralleled one pod for awhile keeping a respectable 200 yards away for most of the cruise, and then the pod decided to swim over to check us out. There’s something so incredible about getting to hear a whale spout — still gives us chicken skin! Finally, on our Whales and Cocktails Cruise, we saw 8 different whales, all in pods of two. One pod found us interesting enough to swing by for a closer look. We also saw a few tail lobs from some other Humpbacks, and when we lowered the hydrophone we got to hear some clear, but not real loud, singing.
Mahalo,
Claire
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: In 1966, the International Whaling Commission placed humpbacks under protection in the North Pacific. In the United States, the National Marine Fisheries Service enforces regulations designed to protect humpbacks as designated by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, and the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Basically, vessels, swimmers and divers cannot approach a humpback within 100 yards, herd or drive them from any distance, separate a cow from her calf, or “substantially disrupt the normal activities of a humpback”. Aircraft must stay more than 1000 feet above the whales.

Windy Weather but Plenty of Action

Aloha,

We started the week off with plenty of wind…but plenty of whales too. On Monday’s Wake up With the Whales, we saw 10 different Humpbacks. We also got to see a full breach which is always as appreciated as it is unexpected.
And on our 10:00 Whale Watch on Alala we had a pretty quiet first hour, just watching a couple of whales spouting and diving and spouting and diving again. Then we saw some splashing south of the harbor off of Hapuna Beach, so we headed down that way, and though we knew we’d have to fight the wind on the way back  we were hoping we’d be rewarded with some pretty exciting activity. The decision paid off as there were 4 Humpbacks down there, and while we were idling, one popped up off our port bow causing a bunch of us to “ooh” and “ahh”…and if that weren’t exciting enough about 200 yards away from us another whale began tail lobbing, while yet another one started peduncle throwing repeatedly, and (it looked to us), aggressively. Since up until a few years ago December 15th was the traditional start to our Whale Watching Season, we find it remarkable how many Humpbacks are here already!
Mahalo,Peduncle throw
Claire
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: The order of whales is called “Cetacean”. The order is divided into two sub-orders, based on what’s in the whales’ mouths. Whales with baleen are in the sub-order “Mysticete”, and whales with teeth are in the sub-order “Odonotocete”. Researchers do not agree on the number of species in each sub-order, but the Society for Marine Mammalogy lists 14 species of Baleen Whales, and 72 species of Toothed Whales.

Thar She Blows Again and Again!

Aloha,

On Friday’s 10:00 Whale Watch, guests saw 12 different Humpbacks. Almost all of them were in pods of two, and based on the sizes of the spouts, all of them were adults (or at least close to adulthood). It’s kind of amazing to us that we can tell anything about a population by the size of their breath (if you’re as amazed as we are, check out today’s Fact of the Day)…One whale chose to approach us to get a look as he swam by. We also saw splashes from some breaching and peduncle throws in the distance. On Saturday’s 10:00 Whale Watch, we found one Humpback offshore of Puako. This whale was on 13 minute dives, surfacing to take 3 or 4 breaths before slipping below the surface again. We got to see the white markings on his flukes a few times. We also saw another spout in the distance, but ran out of time and weren’t able to run out her way to say “aloha”.And on Sunday, the winds came up, so though we could see the whales out there, it was much more difficult to get to them.
Mahalo,
Claire
 
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: Did you know that you can identify the species of whale by the size and shape of it’s spout? Humpbacks create that distinctive 10-15 foot tall pear shaped plume…sperm whales create an angular blow, grey whales create a bushy v shaped blow, and blue whales — the biggest species of whales– typically create a 30 foot tall cone shaped blow.

Two Spouting Humpbacks

Aloha,
Guests aboard our Thursday Wake up With the Whales saw two different Humpbacks. They were on pretty long dive cycles, just coming up to spout a few times before heading back under water. We stayed with these two for the whole cruise and spent their underwater time talking about what we know about Humpbacks and waiting for them to resurface. Seeing those spouts makes all the anticipation worth the wait!Humpback Spout
Mahalo,
Claire

Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day:When a Humpback spouts, he’s exhaling in a half of a second, 90% of the volume of air in his lungs. It’s enough air in one blow to fill up the interior of a stretch limousine. In case you’re curious, when an average size human adult exhales, he takes 3 times as long to exhale just 15% of the volume of air in his lungs — and an adult human exhalation wouldn’t even fill up a Smart Car — it’s only enough air to fill up a lunch bag.

A Little Song, A Little Dance

Aloha,

The water conditions were “super smooth” for Wednesday’s 10:00 Whale Watch, allowing for some great sightings from Alala. Guests aboard the cruise got to watch 3 different Humpbacks. One of them breached 3 times just about 400 yards from us. We also got some good tail shots, as these whales dove right near us. And when we deployed our hydrophone, the sounds we heard were very clear…leading us to believe that those male Humpbacks have begun to make their arrivals already.
Mahalo,
Claire
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: There are Humpback Whale populations in all the oceans of the world. The whales we see here each winter are part of the North Pacific population. “Our” whales feed in the waters of the Gulf of Alaska during the summer months. They swim the 3000 miles to Hawaii each year to calve in warm waters (and to mate).

Mating Mantas Surround the Humpbacks

Aloha,
Tuesday’s Wake Up With the Whales was a really fun cruise. We got to see 6 different Humpbacks, and…they were active on the surface! We saw breaches and pectoral slaps, but since this is just the beginning of the season we were too excited to keep an accurate count on how many of each. Captain Mike reports that what really blew him away though  was watching two dozen Manta Rays swimming all around the whales! According to Captain Nick (who would know) this is mating season for Manta Rays, so that might explain the action.  When we got an opportunity to lower the hydrophone, we heard some very clear singing for the first time this season.
Mahalo,
Claire

Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: It takes an average of just under 3 months for the Humpbacks to migrate from the summer feeding grounds in Alaska to Hawaii (although at least one Humpback was seen in Alaska and then in Hawaii just 45 days later). That means the Humpbacks are generally swimming at a speed of about  1 -2  knots (which is the speed we travel when ambling)!

Not a Fluke at All

Aloha,

Guests on Monday’s Signature Whale Watch got to see 7 different Humpbacks. We spent most of our time with a pod of two adults about 2 miles off Spencer Beach Park. These whales were surfacing and spouting 3 or 4 times before disappearing from our sight for 8 minute dives. One of the pod showed his flukes on each dive, but the other just sort of sank below the surface and then reappeared next to the fluke-diver each time. When we deployed our hydrophone, we all got to hear some pretty clear singing. We estimated the singer was about 3 or 4 miles away from us. And towards the end of our cruise some of us even got to see a breach (the rest of us got to see the splash from the breach).
Mahalo,
Claire
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: On today’s Whale Watch we saw one whale’s flukes so often that we started thinking about the etymology of the word “fluke”. We know that the triangular blade of an anchor is called a fluke, and since a whale’s tail sort of resembles an anchor, that made sense. But why would we call a weird occurrence a “fluke”? So I looked it up…”Fluke” comes from the German word “flugel” which means wing (that makes sense, because a whale’s tail looks a little like a wing). The phrase “just a fluke” is of unknown origin, but it was first used to describe a lucky shot in billiards. Since there’s a fish also called a “fluke” — it’s a flounder — the phrase might have come about as a pun on “floundering” In other words, if you “make a fluke”, you’re just floundering, and your success is merely due to luck.