Guests aboard our 10:00 Whale Watch on Alala had an interesting experience on Tuesday. Just as we left the harbor, we found a pod of Spinner Dolphins, which is always fun…but we continued south and found a Humpback calf at the surface. The calf approached the boat and actually started rubbing up against our hulls! It looked like he was scratching some itchy skin on his sides and on his back, and as we got a better and better look at him, we noticed a chunk missing from his dorsal fin, and all sorts of other scratches on his body. Our on-board naturalist Mike had just finished telling everyone about the importance of the relationship between baby and Mom…and when Mom didn’t surface for awhile, we started to get worried. This little calf stayed right alongside the boat for 20, then 30, then 35 minutes…and just when we were all about to cry, thinking the baby had been abandoned (and also about to call the folks at the Hawaii Islands Humpback National Marine Sanctuary to report the situation), Mom surfaced and led our little friend away! A very happy ending to a very interesting whale watch.
Captain Claire’s Humpback Whale Fact of the Day: According to research reported by the Keiki Kohola Project, the most common surface behavior observed of calves is “twirling” thru 360 degrees at the surface. These twirls often incorporate pec slaps and waves, and tail slaps and swishes. The researchers theorize all this movement not only helps the calves to improve their coordination, but also helps with the production of the intra-muscular oxygen-storing protein called myoglobin, allowing these calves the ability to stay underwater for increased amounts of time without breathing.