The weather cleared on Thursday, so we ran all of our cruises. As usual with a busy day, there’s just too much to report for one email, so here’s what we saw on just one of those cruises. On our 10:00 Whale Watch on Alala from Kawaihae, we started the day with a pod of Spinner Dolphins. As soon as those little guys heard the boat, they came right over to play in our bow wake. We got to see some very lively little dolphin calves spinning and jumping…but not to be outdone, the adults in the pod did some incredible twists and twirls too. After we passed the dolphins, we found a competitive pod charging around on the surface. We paralleled this pod for several minutes and they led us to two separate pods of Mom and her baby. Each of these babies was very active. For awhile, we were watching one calf breach repetitively off the port side of the boat, while the other was breaching off the starboard side. We also saw lots of flukes and spouts from other adult Humpbacks in the area.
Have a great weekend — I’ll send out a recap of our weekend sightings on Monday.
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: How do Humpbacks keep their cool when swimming through our warm Hawaiian waters? During prolonged exercise in warm water, excess heat is shed by increasing circulation to a network of capillaries (in Latin they’re called “retia mirabiliia” which translates to “miracle network”) near the surface of the Humpbacks’ flippers, flukes and dorsal fin — the excess heat is shed to the external environment. In fact, many researchers believe that whales lifting their pectoral fins into the air, or resting with their flukes exposed vertically are actually trying to cool off.
It’s kind of difficult to sum up this past weekend of Whale Watching Cruises. We ran a lot of trips, and we saw a wide variety of behaviors and lots and lots of whales on every cruise. Highlights included seeing 5 different Cow/Calf/Escort pods – including one pod that swam right under us in just 25 feet of water as we were returning to the bay on Friday’s Wake up with the Whales. We also got mugged by a baby, his mom and their escort on the 10:00 Whale Watch. On Friday’s Whales and Cocktails, we got to watch a chase ensue with 5 males and Mom and Baby. We weren’t sure if it was one of the males doing all the peduncle throwing and tail lobbing 100 yards from us, or if it was Mom expressing her displeasure at all the attention.At one point she turned towards the boat and led the whole pod right in front of our bow.
Though we went from two different locations and two different times on Saturday’s morning trips, guests saw very similar activities. Both Seasmoke and Alala were approached by very active calves. Seasmoke’s calf brought Mom and the Escort right over for a close encounter with our idling boat…and Alala’s calf decided multiple breaches were in order. Guests on both boats also saw multiple spouts, tail lobs and peduncle throws a bit further away.
On Sunday’s first Alala Cruise, we were so focused on watching a competitive pod of 5 Humpbacks chase each other around that we barely noticed any other whales (though I’m sure there were a lot in the area). We got to see breaches, head lunges and tail lobs from this group. We also had an extremely close encounter when two of the pod popped up right next to our idling boat, surprising us all. On the way back to the harbor, a very active calf breached and peduncle threw multiple times just about 100 yards from us. Driving away from that action was one of the hardest things we ever have to do…but right after we dropped the folks off from that whale watch, we turned around to take out a bunch of great people who were using the cruise as a fundraiser for the West Hawaii Clinic. We found our active baby again…and this time got to see Mom and an Escort. We also saw lots of other spouts, a couple of pec slaps, and even a few breaches. When we deployed the hydrophone, it sounded as if one whale was singing directly into our microphone.
Hope your weekend was as great as ours!
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: Though we’ve mentioned before that only male Humpback Whales “sing”, all Humpbacks make noises and use these sounds to communicate with each other. Researchers have witnessed cooperative feeding behaviors among the Humpbacks apparently “triggered” by sound, and have also witnessed Humpback Cows (moms) apparently ignoring some sounds made by their calves (researchers called these sounds “goo-goo, ga-ga” noises), but responding immediately when the calves made particular squealing noises. So it appears that Mom recognizes her baby’s voice!
On Thursday’s Wake up with the Whales
, we dropped the hydrophone and heard all sorts of interesting and different sounds and phrases…check it out here
. But we also got to see a lot. Throughout the course of the cruise, we must have seen 30 different humpbacks including 4 different Mom/Baby/Escort pods and a couple of competitive pods. We got to watch two double breaches just 400 yards from the boat, and saw more single breaches than we could count a bit further away in different directions. We also got to see a couple of big adult Humpbacks tail lobbing and then slamming into each other at the surface.On the 10:00 Cruise from Kawaihae
, we found a Mom/Baby/Escort right outside of the harbor. Baby had energy to burn and breached multiple, multiple times, while Mom came right up to the boat to take a look at us. On our Whales & Cocktails Cruise
, we paralleled a competitive pod of 7 Humpbacks, staying with them for about 40 minutes. We saw lots of head lunges, peduncle throws and heard lots of trumpeting. We also saw three separate Mom/Baby/Escort pods, and watched a whole lot of tail lobbing going on from some other big adult humpbacks.
Mahalo and have a great weekend. I’ll send a recap of our weekend whale watches out on Monday.
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day:There’s a time when a whale is still in its fetal stage that it’s covered in fur. By the time the calf is born, the fur has disappeared. Many researchers believe that this is another indication that whales have evolved from an animal with a common ancestor to a hippo. The idea that the stages of an animal’s fetal development reflect evolutionary development or “Ontogeny recapitulates Phylogeny” was first proposed by Ernst Haeckel around 1900.
Monday morning brought us calm winds (finally) but a pretty big swell. The whales didn’t seem to mind the water movement though, because we saw and heard a LOT without going very far from shore. On our Wake up with the Whales Cruise on Manu Iwa
, we found ourselves surrounded frequently throughout the trip. Every direction we looked, we were seeing spouts and flukes. We got to see 4 different Mom/baby pods — none of them appeared to be accompanied by escorts, and a couple of different other adult humpbacks pec slapping and peduncle throwing. The whale song was really loud and clear when we dropped our hydrophone. If you’d like to hear a snippet, click here
.The same thing happened to guests on Seasmoke’s Wake up with the Whales
— surrounded by Mom’s and babies! That trip started with an additional treat though — guests got to see a huge pod of spinner dolphins who found the boat to be an object of fun. On our 10:00 Cruise on Alala
, we got to watch a pod of Mom/Baby/Escort for almost the whole cruise. They were pretty calm and quiet but the baby did try to approach us several times. At the end of the cruise, the baby woke up a bit, rolling around on the surface and slapping his pectoral fin just a bit. On our Whales and Cocktails Cruise,
we got to see a spyhop in the beginning of the cruise, followed by a couple of very active breaching calves (we got to see their mom’s surface, but no signs of any escorts). We also got surprised when an adult humpback decided to breach about 400 yards away from us.
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: According to researchers, the sleep process for a Humpback is most likely very similar to how their little toothed cousins, the dolphins, sleep. EEG readings from sleeping bottlenose dolphins show that the dolphins shut down half their brains at a time to rest – a process called “uni-hemispheric slow wave sleep”. Mallard ducks and some species of seals sleep this way too. The active half of the brain presumably is monitoring breathing and perhaps scanning the surroundings for predators, while the passive half is resting. Bottlenose dolphins sleep approximately 33% of the day, but stay asleep for only a couple of hours at a time.