Humpbacks, Spinners, Babies, Competitive Pods…a GREAT Weekend!

We had a great weekend of whale watching. On Friday’s Breakfast with the Whales, we found 3 whales who decided to spend quite a bit of time with us. At one point, one of them surfaced just 50 yards away from the boat! We also saw lots of breaches on the horizon (but we couldn’t get out to those whales). On our 10:00 Whale Watch, the wind began to come up…but we did see a Humpback and we also saw about 200 very active Spinner Dolphins. When we deployed the hydrophone on that trip, we did pick up some very faint singing.
On Saturday’s Breakfast with the Whales we saw 11 Humpbacks. The first 5 were off in the distance…but then we came upon a competitive pod of 6 whales south of the Bay. This pod circled us TWICE, coming within about 6 feet of the bow (we weren’t moving at that point). We saw a few head lunges, lots of motor-boating (a description that sounds like exactly what it is…whales moving thru the water with their heads above the surface, so they look like high-speed boats), and some tail lobs! The strong winds up north on Saturday prevented us from running the 10:00 Whale Watch, however our guests aboard our Whales and Cocktails cruise encountered the same competitive pod as the morning guests did (at least we think it was the same group of whales). We got to see a few peduncle throws from this pod and the same exciting chase scene.
On Sunday’s Breakfast with the Whales, guest saw 8 whales…lots of breaches and pec slapping in the distance, and a close enough encounter that some of us got covered by what comes out of the blowholes when the whale spouts (see the Humpback Fact of the Day for more on this). On our 10:00 Whale Watch from Kawaihae, we spent a considerable amount of time with a Cow/Calf pod just outside of the harbor…and we saw a few more whales in the distance. And we finished the weekend with our Whales and Cocktails cruise where we saw 7 whales…but the coolest thing that happened on that trip was watching a huge pod of Spinner Dolphins surround two of the whales. We’re not really sure how much inter-species communication actually goes on, but it sure appears to us that the dolphins are interested in playing with the whales (and that the whales find their little cousins to be pretty irritating)!
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: When you see a whale spout, you’re actually looking at an interesting combination of things. Some of what you’re looking at is condensation from the whales’ lungs (the same thing you’re looking at when you see your own breath after exhaling in a cold environment); some is atomized ocean water (Humpbacks live in a wet world, and there’s always some of the ocean pooled on top of their blow holes when they surface); and…since Humpbacks don’t have cilia in their respiratory tracks (little hairs)…a lot of what you see (and occasionally feel) is actually mucus! Yuck!