Highlights from Tuesday’s day of whale watching included the 5 large but bashful whales we saw on our 10:00 Whale Watch. Our guests saw lots of diving, and lots of flukes. We’re always happy when we can see the flukes, and we do try to photograph them…see today’s Humpback Fact of the Day for the reason why. On the Whales and Cocktails Cruise, guests saw 15 different whales. When we first left the Bay, we saw a pod of two that seemed pretty active…and then another pod of two. So we headed towards that first, more active pod, but wouldn’t you know it?? As soon as we got there, they got quiet, but the other pod suddenly became more active…so we decided to turn around and head back towards them. Of course, as we got closer, they quieted down but the first pod got active again…so we decided to turn around again, (whale ping-pong) and headed back towards them. This time they stayed active! We saw about 25 tail slaps from the two of them, and a couple of times they got within 100 yards of the boat (remember, we need to maintain a 100 yard distance, but it’s ok for the whales to approach us as long as we aren’t actively pursuing them). We also saw 3 breaches from other whales in the distance. At the end of this trip, we saw another competitive pod…but they were out of our range at that point and we had to go home.
Captain Claire’s Humpback Whale Fact of the Day: One of the best ways whale watchers have to identify individual Humpbacks is by the unique markings on the ventral (underside) of their flukes (tails). Currently, the National Marine Mammal Laboratory based in Seattle maintains a data base containing more than 30,000 photos of the North Pacific Humpbacks flukes for identification purposes, but other researchers, including those involved in the 3 season SPLASH (Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpbacks) project have also used these patterns to identify who’s who in the whale world and estimate population levels.
We had some great times the past few days watching the Humpbacks along the Kohala Coast! On Friday, both our 8:00 Breakfast with the Whales cruise out of Anaeho’omalu and our 10:00 Whale Watch out of Kawaihae reported seeing 5 different Humpbacks. Each boat reported seeing breaches (8:00 guests saw 4, and the 10:00 guests saw 2) but the guests aboard the 3:00 Whales and Cocktails trip reported an astounding 25 breaches from 2 whales about 200 yards from the boat. Even Captain Will, who has been running charters for more than 30 years was so excited he could barely describe the action! On Saturday, the 8:00 Breakfast with the Whales cruise reports seeing 14 Humpbacks, and the 10:00 Whale Watch reports seeing 11 Humpbacks. Both boats were approached by whales, and both boats report some pretty loud and clear singing. Sunday’s 8:00 Breakfast with the Whales trip reports seeing 25 different whales with 7 breaches, and on our 10:00 Whale Watch, guests saw only 13 Humpbacks, but they report seeing 28 tail lobs, 6 peduncle throws and 3 breaches. What a show! Of course we have to save the best for last… the final trip of the weekend was the 3:00 Whales and Cocktails, where 27 different whales were seen, and guests counted 7 breaches, 15 tail slaps, 3 head lunges, 2 pec slaps and some “motor boating’ — that’s what we call it when the whales are travelling near the surface of the water with their massive heads angled up, creating an actual wake…it’s generally an aggressive behavior for the Humpbacks.
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Humpback Whale Fact of the Day: Humpback Whales don’t have teeth — they have approximately 270 – 400 pairs of baleen plates hanging from the top palate of their mouths ranging in length from a foot to about 3 feet long. Where the baleen is attached to the palate, it feels like a horse’s hoof — but it fringes out to form dense mats allowing the whale to “strain the soup of the ocean” when feeding.