Melon Heads, Spinner Dolphins and of course, LOTS of Humpbacks

The past few days have been interesting ones for us on the water. Besides the winds we encountered off and on throughout the weekend, we did encounter lots of whales…and they weren’t all Humpbacks! On Friday, guests aboard Seasmoke were amazed to see a pod of Melon Head Whales. These small toothed whales look a lot like really big dolphins, growing to about 9 feet long and weighing in at around 200 pounds with huge foreheads (thus the name) adorned by a black mask. They travel in pods ranging from about 100 animals to almost 1000, feeding on squid and small fish and though they’re permanent residents around the islands, we hardly ever see them.
Guests on Saturday’s Breakfast with the Whales Cruise got to see a huge pod of Spinner Dolphins. Known for their aerial behavior, these animals seem to enjoy interacting with our boats…surfing on the pressure waves the boat creates as we drive along the coast….and of course we did see lots of Humpbacks. On that same trip we saw at least 6 different whales, and twice had them approach our boat within about 40 yards (we stay 100 yards away from them, but they can choose to approach us if they want)! On the 10:00 Whale Watch on Alala from Kawaihae, we saw 6 whales…and several tail slaps.  Sunday brought more Humpback sightings…lots of spouts and a few sounding dives complete with fluke shots.And on our Christmas Whales & Cocktails trip, we paralleled a competitive pod of 3 whales for most of the trip, even witnessing a couple of head lunges!  When we did get to deploy the hydrophone on Friday and Saturday, we heard faint singing….
Which brings us to our Humpback Whale Fact of the Day: On Friday, I mentioned that we believed Humpbacks didn’t sing their distinctive songs during the times they spend in higher latitudes while feeding.  Researcher Chris Gabriele was quick to send me a link to a paper he co-wrote, documenting the songs sung by a few male whales in Alaska. According to his research, the whales do sing sporadically in late summer and fall, corresponding with the beginning of seasonal hormonal activity in the males prior to their migration. Mahalo Chris, for helping to reveal another clue to explain this complex behavior!
Join Ocean Sports on any of our 3 Whale Watches departing daily from 2 different locations within the Hawaii Islands National Humpback Marine Sanctuary. Call us at (808)886-6666 ext 103 or visit
Captain Claire

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