Our weekend whale watching started out with “too many whales to count” on Friday’s Breakfast with the Whales Cruise. We spent about an hour with a pod of 3 – Mom, her calf and an escort. The calf was really active – lobbing his little tail over and over. We also had a couple of very close encounters with whales swimming just 10 feet away from the boat! On our 10:00 Whale Watch, we saw 30 whales! We had breaches close to the boat; we saw a spy hop, head lunges, tail lobs, pec slaps and double pec slaps – pretty much every behavior in the book! On the Whales and Cocktails Cruise. the highlight of the trip was either the competitive pod of 6 whales repetitively tail lobbing and peduncle throwing…or the VERY CLOSE BREACH. We couldn’t decide which was more exciting. On Saturday’s Breakfast with the Whales, we encountered a pod of two whales just outside of the Bay. They stayed with us for awhile, but then we saw a pod of 5, so we headed out to see them. They were really active on the surface, breaching and tail lobbing, and at one point all 5 of them crossed our bow just 20 feet away. On our 10:00 Whale Watch, we saw 25 whales, including a fairly active competitive pod of 3. The two males were clearly jockeying for position to get closer to the female…lots of trumpeting and bubble blowing from them. We also saw two breaches on the horizon, tail lobs and peduncle throws. But the highlight of this trip is when our naturalist Jonathan saw something white floating on the water. As we got closer we were able to determine it was a Hammerhead Shark! This shark was probably 8-10 feet long, (which is normal for that species) and it stayed with the boat for almost 20 minutes! On Sunday’s 10:00 Whale Watch we saw 7 whales including two pods of Mom/Baby without escorts. When we deployed the hydrophone, we heard faint singing. And to top off the day, on our Whales and Cocktails trip, not only did we see a lots of Humpbacks, but we also saw a pod of false killer whales (they look like kind of like big – really big – dolphins, and though they’re shaped a lot like orcas, they don’t have the white markings). False Killer Whales (Pseudorca crassidens) are not really that rare, although we don’t see them often in shallow water. They feed on large fish and squid, and average between 16-20 feet long.
Captain Claire’s Humpback Whale Fact of the Day: Friday’s pectoral and double pectoral slaps showed our guests the most distinctive physical characteristic of the Humpback Whale…Humpback Whales have the longest Pectoral Fins (arms) of any of the great whales. They’re so distinctive that the Latin Genus name (Megaptera) for the Humpback actually describes those fins…The Genus and Species names are “Megaptera Novaengliae” meaning“Big-Winged New Englander” and pronounced “MAY-ga-terra No-vee-ANG-li-ee.
We had two really run Whale Watches on Thursday. On our 10:00 Whale Watch from Kawaihae, we saw a total of 8 whales — two of them were a mile or so away, but the other 6 put on quite a show. We watched a very active calf (think of any hyperactive 2 year old human kid you’ve ever met and you’ll get the idea). This baby pec slapped, double pec slapped and tail lobbed so many times that we had to stop counting at 20 for each activity and just enjoy his antics. And as if that weren’t enough, we also saw 3 full breaches just 25 yards from the boat from a couple of adults. An on our Whales and Cocktails Cruise, as we were making our way out of the bay in the beginning of the trip, we saw a full breach…then a bunch of tail lobs…then a bunch of peduncle throws about 500 yards from us. The whales kept this up…but they were moving at about the same speed we were, so we got to watch a lot more of this activity from about 500 yards away. We did have one close encounter on this trip, when a smaller whale surfaced just under 100 yards from us, blew, and dived again. In all, we saw 15 different whales on this trip.
Mahalo and have a wonderful weekend. I’ll send out a weekend recap report on Monday.
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: Why would a whale waste the energy to throw the back half of his or her body out of the water in a Peduncle Throw (sometimes repetitively)?? Since the whales aren’t telling, all we can do is try to interpret their behavior in terms of what else is going on in their lives at that moment. We know that Humpbacks very rarely eat while they’re in Hawaii, and since a Peduncle Throw is a huge expenditure of energy (if you don’t believe me, try it yourself next time you’re in the ocean), it’s got to be important to the whale. Throwing half of yourself out of the water results in a huge splash and might be a way to communicate location, health, excitement, aggression or irritation to near-by whales. Especially if the near-by whale happens to be so near that he gets landed upon!
We had a great day on the water on Thursday with the Humpbacks. On our 8:00 Breakfast with the Whales, Captain Baker reports that everyone saw 7 pods of whales, 8 breaches and 6 tail lobs. When we deployed our hydrophone, we were astounded by the clarity of the sounds we heard. But the most exciting thing that happened on that trip was when Mom, Baby and Escort decided to check out our boat. Baby swam within about 20 feet from the boat! On our 10:00 Whale Watch we saw 10 different whales and 5 breaches. We encountered a competitive pod of 4 adults and watched them lunge with their bodies and heads. We also saw 8 pectoral slaps, and 4 double pectoral slaps (that’s when the whale is lying on his or her back and hitting the surface of the water with both of his pectoral fins alternately). Our hydrophone broadcast some beautiful sounds to everyone on this boat too.
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Humpback Whale Fact of the Day: Humpback whales have 52-54 vertebrae, of which 42 are articulating (jointed) and 10 are fused forming the sacrum. Humans usually have 33 vertebrae, of which 24 are articulating and 9 fused forming our sacrums.
Have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be sending out the next whale report on Monday.