No Mating but Valient Effort

Aloha,
Our guests braved the on-again, off-again rain on Wednesday, and enjoyed some pretty great whale watches. We operated two boats for our Breakfast with the Whales Cruises, and our Captains decided to go in different directions. Both Captains made the right decision, as guests on each boat saw at least 20 – 24 different whales. With all those whales out there, everyone got to see multiple breaches, pec slaps, and tail lobs. Guests on Manu Iwa were surprised when a competitive pod of 4 whales decided to use the boat for their own purposes. This pod included a Cow/Calf pair and two males who were battling to see who would dominate and get to stay with the female. They all dived multiple times just below the boat, surfacing right next to us on the other side each time. There was a lot of jockeying for position between the males, and the female did a great job keeping her calf away from the action. And on our Whales and Cocktails Cruise, we found 5 different competitive pods so we actually had to choose which group to watch. We decided on paralleling a group of 4 whales who were doing a lot of tail lobbing and peduncle throws. At one point we got to watch one of them (we think it was the female, based on her behavior and position) actually roll over onto her dorsal side (her back) and slap the water with her tail multiple times. Some researchers have observed that a female whale in this position is much more difficult for a male to approach closely (in other words, she may be communicating her disinterest in mating by making it much more difficult for mating to occur).
Mahalo,
Claire
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day:Researchers have observed that female Humpbacks with calves are accompanied by a male escort about 83% of the time during the winter season in Hawaii. Since nursing moms rarely get pregnant, we’re not sure why these males are hanging around…one theory is that the escort is trying to make a good impression on the female so that when she is receptive, she’ll consider the possibility of mating with him. Other researchers theorize that she puts up with the company of one male, hoping that he’ll scare off other amorous suitors (maybe dealing with one male at a time is better than having to deal with 2, 3, 4 or more).

Late Season Sightings

Aloha,
I know on April 16th that I said “aloha” to our spectacular 2012/2013 Humpback season, but I just had to share with you that on Sunday’s Dolphin Watch Encounter from Anaeho’omalu Bay, we saw Humpbacks! We hadn’t gone more than 5 minutes outside of Anaeho’omalu Bay before we saw a big splash. We knew right away that it had to have been from a Humpback…but we didn’t see the whale. So of course, we kept going west towards the splash, and slowed down when we thought we were in the vicinity. Who should pop up right in front of us, but Mom, baby and escort!
Baby was fairly big…and Mom and the escort were fairly small for adults. It was obvious to all of us aboard that the escort was actively pursuing Mom and she kept changing directions to avoid him. Baby was out in front…but we did get to see him do a quick dive under Mom (nursing maybe?). We were fortunate enough to watch this pod for about 30 minutes before they changed direction completely and we decided to move on to our snorkel spot.
Just thought you might be interested! April 21st, and we’re still seeing whales!!
Mahalo,
Claire

April Whales Still Abundant

Aloha,
The whales are still out there! On our Breakfast with the Whales Cruise, we saw whales in all directions…including pods of Mom/Baby/Escort and a couple of competitive pods. On our 10:00 Whale Watch we saw a total of 5 breaches including one from a calf…two of these breaches were about 100 yards from the boat creating HUGE splashes. We also saw several head lunges and a couple of peduncle throws. Twice we had whales come up less than 100 yards from us. And on the Whales and Cocktails Cruise, the babies were out in full force. We saw lots of pods of Mom/Baby and almost all of these pods were accompanied by an escort (we suspect that in the pods where we didn’t see an escort, he was still around, but just hadn’t surfaced).
Mahalo,
Claire
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: Since 1991, Whale Watchers off the coast of Australia have been seeing an all-white Humpback. They named him “Migaloo”, which is the aboriginal word for “white fella”, and DNA samples taken from skin he sloughed off into the water after a breach confirmed that he is, in fact, a male. He was believed to be the only all white Humpback in the world until September 2011, when an all white Humpback calf was spotted off of the Australian Coast. Whale watchers named him “Migaloo Jr”, and researchers are trying to determine if this little calf is related to Migaloo Senior. Up until very recently, researchers assumed that Migaloo was a true albino whale, but now he’s considered to be “hypo-pigmented” since they aren’t totally sure he produces absolutely no pigment (his eyes may have color). And yes…Migaloo does have problems with the sun. Whale Watchers in Australia have noted the poor guy does get quite the sunburn. And just this past November, another white Humpback was spotted off the coast of Norway.

Wild Times on the Water

Aloha,
We had a wild show on Tuesday’s 10:00 Whale Watch. We found a competitive pod of 8 whales right off of Puako. We’re guessing it was composed of one female and 7 males…but we suppose it could have been just 8 competitive males. Regardless, we watched this group for our entire whale watch. We saw lots of trumpeting, lots of whales shoving other whales around, bubble blowing, chin lifts, peduncle throws and well…the ocean was churning from all their surface activity. It’s exhausting just trying to recount this…we can only imagine how exhausted the whales must be feeling! And on our Whales and Cocktails Cruise, our onboard naturalist Angelica, reports that it was the best trip of her life! Leaving the bay, we saw what we thought was a competitive pod because we could see lots of splashing. As we approached, we realized it was a Cow/Calf/Escort pod. The adults were acting really aggressively towards each other…lots of chasing, lunging, and trumpeting, and it appeared to us that the poor little calf was just trying to stay out of the way. Apparently in the midst of all this chasing around, Mom saw our boat because she turned right towards us, leading the male to us too. All three of them spent the next hour swimming back and forth from side to side and bow to stern under the boat. At one point one of the adults did a tail lob so close to the stern that it splashed all of us! Baby seemed to like looking at the boat (very curious)…and as we watched this incredible show, the whole boat was rocking from the waves these whales were creating. The other interesting thing we noticed was as these whales spent more and more time using our boat for whatever purpose they were using it, they did seem to calm down a bit. We’re not sure if they were getting tired or just found us to be an interesting diversion.
Mahalo,
Claire
Captain Claire’s Humpback Whale Fact of the DayThe maternal instinct of the Humpback is so strong that she’ll even take care of other small animals in danger! In 2009, 2 scientists sailing off the coast of South America watched as a pod of Orcas flipped a Weddell Seal off an ice flow. The seal began swimming towards a nearby Humpback. Just as the seal got close, the whale rolled onto her back, sweeping the 400 pound seal onto her chest. As the Orcas closed in, the Humpback arched her back, which lifted the seal out of the water…unfortunately for the seal, the water rushing off the whale started to wash the seal back into the sea. The scientists were astounded to see the Humpback use her flipper to gently nudge the floundering seal back onto her chest…moments later, the seal slid back into the water and swam to the safety of a nearby ice flow.

Young Calves and Lots of Escorts

Aloha,

We started our weekend with some strange stormy weather on Friday. On our Breakfast with the Whales Cruise, we spent most of our time with a Mom/Baby/Escort pod. Baby led Mom right up to the boat a few times, and though the baby seemed pretty big and had a fairly straight dorsal fin (indicating he was not a new-born) both Mom and the Escort were fairly small (by Humpback standards), suggesting to us that they were both fairly young. We did see some head lunging about 800 yards from us too. On the 10:00 Whale Watch, we saw 15 different Humpbacks, and 4 different Mom/Baby pods.
On Saturday’s Breakfast With the Whales we saw every behavior we could hope for on a whale watch including multiple breaches from a very energetic calf, adult tail lobs and peduncle throws, pec slaps, and even some adult breaches!
And on Sunday’s Breakfast with the Whales, we found 3 different Mom/Baby/Escort pods, including one with a very, very small calf. Each of these pods decided to swing by the boat, so we had some great close encounters. We also saw a double breach from two adult whales (always exciting) and towards the end of the cruise we found a competitive pod who were doing a lot of trumpeting, head lunges and bubble blowing beneath the surface. At one point we were downwind from a spout and it really smelled kind of horrible. We finished the weekend of Whale Watching with a Whales and Cocktail Cruise from Anaeho’omalu Bay. We got to see several Mom/Calf pods, and they got to see us too (we had lots of close encounters). We also saw a lot of tail lobbing, breaching, and peduncle throws. And when we dropped our hydrophone into the water, we were surprised by the clarity of the songs we heard. Oh…and at the end of the day, the sun came out again, making for a beautiful end to the weekend.
Mahalo,
Claire
Captain Claire’s Humpback Whale Fact of the DayAccording to research conducted in Japan, the peak estrus period for Humpbacks (i.e. when females are in heat) overall, is between the end of January and the end of February, but the peak estrus period for females with a calf appears to be several weeks later. Our frequent observations of pods of Mom and Baby who are accompanied by an escort this time of year seem to support the validity of these findings.

More Height of the Season Competition

Aloha,
We began our Monday Whale Watch with “tons of whales in all directions” (that’s according to our marine naturalist Angelica) sighted from the Breakfast with the Whales Cruise. She then gave us a more accurate estimate of a total of 36 whales seen throughout the cruise. We watched a Mom/Baby/Escort pod in about 60 feet of water… until we saw a competitive pod who showed us a few head lunges. We then found a pod of a couple of smaller whales, and watched them battle for awhile, seeing lots of tail lobs and peduncle throws. Just as we were returning to the bay, we saw a huge breach followed by some pec slaps (which looked to us as if the whale was waving “Aloha”). On the Whales and Cocktails Cruise, we saw about 20 different whales and lots of breaching in the distance. We watched a Mom/Baby/Escort pod hanging out on the surface. Mom was just kind of laying on her side, and the escort was swimming along just below her, but so close to the surface that we could see him really well. It was pretty windy out there, but when we were in the right position to deploy the hydrophone, we gave it a try and heard some very loud and clear songs.
Mahalo,
Claire
Captain Claire’s Humpback Whale 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.

A Weekend of Wild Activity

Aloha,
Guests aboard our Friday Breakfast with the Whales Cruise saw lots of whales, lots of spouts, and lots of tail lobs. The highlight of the trip was encountering a competitive pod that included Mom and her calf. We watched as Mom did her best to shield her calf from the fray…Mom is able to get pregnant right after she gives birth, but she rarely does. We’re not sure if it’s because she successfully avoids mating or if it’s because due to hormone levels affected by lactation, it’s actually more difficult for her to get pregnant while she’s nursing. On the 10:00 Whale Watch, we counted 22 different whales including a competitive pod of 5, one pod of cow-calf, and one pod of cow-calf-escort. We think it was the escort that gave us the highlight of this trip when he breached just 30 yards from the port side of the boat! We also saw 3 other breaches and 3 head lunges, and heard some great singing through our hydrophone. And we finished off our Friday by watching a competitive pod of 7 whales on our Whales and Cocktails Cruise. As usual, they provided lots of action on the surface…during the course of this cruise, we saw a total of 10 whales within a half mile of the bay.
On Saturday’s Breakfast with the Whales, we found a mom and her sleepy baby just outside of the bay. We watched them for awhile before finding a competitive pod of 3 whales. At one point, one of the whales swam under the boat, turned around and then surfaced right next to the boat, covering us with his spout. On the 10:00 Whale Watch, we saw 18 whales including one competitive pod of 6 whales, one mom-baby pod, and one mom-baby-escort pod. Highlights included one huge peduncle throw, and several head lunges, tail lobs and pec slaps. We also encountered a pod of spinner dolphins.
Sunday’s Whale Watches brought us more fun.Guests aboard our Breakfast with the Whales Cruise saw 5 different competitive pods…and 4 pods of Mom and Bay (one with an escort). We saw lots of breaching in the distance, a few pec slaps and some tail lobs too. On the 10:00 Whale Watch we saw 22 whales including a competitive pod of 6 (that performed 5 head lunges) and 3 different Mom/Baby pods (only one with an escort). And the day ended with sightings of 20 different whales on the Whales and Cocktails Cruise. Among other things, we saw breaches, and watched two BIG adult whales alternate tail lobs for about 10 minutes!
Mahalo,
Claire
Captain Claire’s Humpback Whale Fact of the Day:   Just how difficult is it for a 40 ton, 45 foot long animal to “fly” from the sea in a total breach? Observers have reported seeing Humpbacks breach after only two kick strokes for propulsion. Based on the formula for calculating horsepower, measurements of laminar flow around cetacean skin (how water flows past the skin of the animal), girth, and drag in the water, the breaching whale is producing between 1500 and 1700 horsepower in order to “catch air”. We used to think it was closer to 5000 horsepower, but with the aid of a calculator and more accurate measurements, we’ve been able to recalculate more accurately…still, try this yourself next time you’re in the water. We’re betting you won’t get very far!