Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Another New World: Humpback Whales

One of the best parts of Hawaii this time of year is that it is home to thousands of humpback whales who have come to give birth to their calves. You can see them right from the beach and even while driving along the coastal highway (it's best to be the passenger in this case!)
This picture is of a breach that I captured from the beach. I zoomed in on the picture so it's a little fuzzy, but I think it is a baby based on the size and that large dark spot just underneath the whale in the picture. I'm guessing that's the mother - they are about 45 feet long.
I was so intrigued by the whales, I wanted to get out on the water to see them so we went out on whale watching trip on our last day. The pontoon boats are roughly the same size as the adult humpbacks - a fact that was not lost on us when the whale decided to swim under the boat!

Hawaii whale protection guidelines dictate that boats can't approach within 100 yards of the whale, but when they decide to swim towards you, all bets are off. You just kill the motor and sit quietly till their done messing with you!

We didn't witness any breaches or spyhops (that's when they bob up and down in the water - essentially "spying" on their surroundings), but had a long, peaceful visit with a mother, calf, and the two Bottlenose Dolphins that seemed to be spending the afternoon with them.

The whales stay in Hawaii from roughly November to May and once their calves are strong enough they'll swim back to Alaska. Apparently, they mate in Hawaii too because when the whales are back next year there will be another round of calves.

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