We woke up to rain and blustery winds on Thursday, which meant we weren’t able to take our guests on any morning whale watch cruises. We did get to go out for the Whales and Cocktails Cruise though, and it seemed like the humpbacks were happy to see us. We saw spouts in every direction we looked. For awhile, it seemed like all the action must be taking place below the surface because all we saw were whales surfacing, taking a few breaths, and then diving again. But it’s February now — height of the season for whale watching off our coast — so it wasn’t long before we got to see some breaching from a few adult humpbacks. We also saw tail lobs and peduncle throws. We found a couple of different Mom/Baby pods — both accompanied by escorts. And lots of pods of two and three adult Humpbacks charging around on the surface.
Have a great weekend — I’ll send out a recap on Monday!
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: I was at the airport Thursday afternoon, when a guest from one of last week’s Whale Watch cruises who apparently recognized me even though I wasn’t dressed in my Ocean Sports uniform walked over and said, “I just can’t remember…what was that word you used to describe the back of the whale”? I answered that we call the region between the whales’ flukes and his main body, a “peduncle”…but why? So I looked it up. The word “peduncle” comes from the Latin word “ped” which means foot. It was first used to describe the stalk of a flower, fruit, or tumor. I guess that makes sense…the back part of the whale does sort of look like a stalk, bearing the whale’s wide flukes.
On Wednesday we took guests out on our Signature 10:00 Whale Watch from Kawaihae Harbor on the Alala. We enjoyed beautiful ocean conditions…calm winds, and that unique Hawaiian combo of getting to feel a light rain while cruising under sunny skies.
We didn’t see any Humpbacks, but while we were offshore of Pu’u Kohola (near Spencer Beach Park), we had an opportunity to deploy our hydrophone. We didn’t hear singing…but we could hear some faint “grunts and groans” that definitely were not sounds made by the boat (we could hear those sounds too). Near the shoreline, our microphone is able to pick up sounds from as far as 5 miles, so we know there are whales in the vicinity. At the end of our cruise, while we were just outside of the harbor, one of our guests saw a Humpback’s peduncle (that’s what we call the part from just behind the dorsal fin to the tail). We all got pretty excited, but in the remaining time we had left, this whale chose not to surface again. We had to call this cruise a “fluke”…but we weren’t too disappointed. Since the cruise is guaranteed, we’ve invited everyone to join us again on another Whale Watch Cruise for FREE!
Captain Claire’s Humpback Whale Fact of the Day: The first whales to arrive in Hawaii each year from Alaska are females with a yearling, followed by sub-adults (the teenagers of the whale world). The next to arrive are mature resting females (ovaries and mammary glands show no signs of recent activity) followed by mature males, and finally late pregnancy stage females.
On our last day of the 2013/2014 Whale Season, we were delighted to see our favorite pod — Mom and her calf — on our Breakfast with the Whales Cruise. Despite the wind, these two whales were curious about us and surfaced twice fairly close to us. The first time, they were about 100 yards away, and the second time, about 200 yards away. We got to see baby’s flukes, and Mom’s peduncle as they dived below. We wish them well on their journey back to Alaska and hope to see them again next season. A Hui Ho Humpbacks! It’s been great watching you and having you watch and play with us.
And I’d like to say Mahalo Nui Loa for reading these reports and sharing them with our guests. I appreciated all your comments this season, and look forward to sharing our 2014/2015 Humpback Whale Season with you!
Captain Claire’s End-of-the-Season Humpback Fact of the Day: Our North Pacific Humpback Whale population seems to be thriving. Before the whaling days in the early 19th century, researchers estimate the Humpback population to have been about 20,000 — they base this estimate on reports from whalers. In 1966, when humans finally stopped killing Humpbacks and began counting them, the population was estimated to be only around 1400. When I began working as a naturalist on whale watch tours a little more than 20 years ago, the population was estimated to be around 5000 (which was great news, because it meant the regulations put in place to protect the Humpbacks seemed to be working — the population had more than tripled). In 2008, when the SPLASH project released their initial population count results, these researchers estimated the North Pacific Humpback population to be around 20,000 — and they observed that the population was increasing by 5.5% to 6% every year!