Archive for February, 2011

Ok, I had A LOT of technical difficulties getting this uploaded.  Turns out, I just needed a much faster internet connection! Here we go a couple videos of the False Killer Whale encounter:

Last year I used to go on a lot of whale watches for fun because I only worked once, sometimes twice, a week.  This year I have not gone on very many because I have been working a bit more. One of my good friends is leaving to hike the Appalachian Trail for the next eight months, so we decided to go out on a trip. Turns out she picked the trip of the century! We saw a species of whale that I have never seen in Hawaii.  Every day, people ask if there are any other types of whales in Maui and every day I say no, but today I realized my normal answer is not exactly truthful.

We saw a pod of at least 50 False Killer Whales.  They look like really big dolphins with rounder faces, and they display behaviors like our humpbacks, which was strange to see. Our boat was in the center of the group and they spanned a quarter mile in every direction.  We saw them tail slap, chin slap, and even breach.  The breaching was incredible; there was at least ten feet between bottom of the tail and the surface of the water.  For those of you familiar with Maui, we followed these animals from the end of the Lahaina harbor channel all the way to Black Rock. Once they reached Black Rock they joined up with Humpbacks and Spinner dolphins.  It was one crazy day! I have a few videos that are on the way and should be up within the next couple of days.

Read Full Post »

We went out on the water on Tuesday, and I have to admit that up until very recently the later trips of the day had clearly been the better shows.  On Tuesday, that all changed.   The first trip of the day proved incredible.  We had a cow/calf pair come over to the boat.  The baby was older and was showing signs of developed motor skills.  He was playing around and came over to the bow and was rolling on his back with his peck fins in the air.  Mom, being the protective female she is, spy hopped no more than 10 feet from our boat as her baby continued to play.  It was stunning to watch and left our passengers in a state of pure bliss with a glazed over look of happiness on all of their faces.

The day continued on in a spectacular fashion.  We had a different breaching baby on every single trip.  All of these babies were also in close range, the furthest was 150 yards.  In retrospect, it is hard to recall each trip individually because all the flying calves began to blend together. Alas, the life of a whale watcher is so difficult! For me the most exciting part of the day was that I FINALLY caught my very own breach on film. It’s not great, but it’s a start.

Read Full Post »

Although I have an infinite love for the whales, I am still obsessed with dolphins.  We have an expression out here in Maui that perfectly describes why we get so excited when we see dolphins, it’s something along the lines of, “Any day on the water you can go out and find the whales, but the dolphins find you.”  We have three types of dolphins (Bottlenose, Spotted, and Spinners) but one stands out among the others.  The Spinner dolphins are smaller than the other varieties, and have babies that are so adorable it is hard to describe, other than to say they look like little grey, spinning footballs.

There are, as far as I can tell, two large pods of spinners.  They mostly hang out further away from Maui, typically on the backside of Lanai.  I have only seen them a handful of times and it had been a while, I was itching for a sighting! On the last trip on Sunday we had gone south and an adolescent whale came over toward us.  I had spotted a pod of spinners that were getting closer but we couldn’t move because our whale was too close.  Finally, as we broke away we were late returning to the harbor but Captain Dave announced, “This is for you Katie!” I came out of the cabin and he was speeding away from the harbor and headed directly toward the pod. I was so excited, and of course wasn’t able to catch a picture of them spinning (when they jump into the air they can do up to 7 revolutions) but I got a couple of great shots as they were riding our wake.  Above is the whale that mugged us, below are the spinners.

Read Full Post »

At the end of last week we had a private tour for a group of 136 foreign tourists.  It was a great trip all and all but the only problem was the whales were too good.  So good that the interpreters were watching whales instead of helping Raquel and I bartend for the group, which was especially hard when we were more interested in just watching the competitive group going crazy.

There were about five boats surrounding the group of seven and each whale was showing different behaviors.  Two were breaching, one was tail thrashing, another pec slapping, and so on.  It was constant action.  Finally, as the bar slowed down I was able to grab my camera and check them out.  The group had started to break up but I was able to catch one of the males as he was heading away and chin slapping repeatedly.  After looking at the picture more closely, I can’t help but notice…is this whale fat?

Once I upload the picture, you will understand what I am talking about.  There is a definite size difference between this whale and others we are used to seeing.  Clearly, he is not an overweight whale but probably has just arrived from Alaska.  I have never noticed some of the smaller differences in these animals that I am starting to notice this season such as dorsal fin differences, weight variances, the shapes of spouts, etc.  The picture is coming soon!

Read Full Post »

We have our underwater camera up and running this season, and fortunately for us Kyle is a video expert.  My photography and videography skills are severely lacking, but he has compiled some of our best footage into the video below.  Check it out!

Read Full Post »

Recently there was an incredible day of whales.  One week ago the Kaulana got mugged on every single trip.  I wasn’t working (of course) but fortunately some of our regulars got amazing shots!  It is very rare for whales to open their mouths in Hawaii.  They do not feed here so they have no real need to open up.  Occasionally they will take in some water to fill up their jaw when impressing a female.  When the boat got mugged one of our annual passengers, Peter caught this amazing shot.  It is so clear it looks like a painting.  I was blown away to see this because I always describe baleen to passengers without ever having seen it myself.  This picture is amazing and I am so jealous of everyone who was on board that day!


Read Full Post »


The gallery has been updated with new pictures!

Read Full Post »

It is 2:15 p.m. on February 10, 2011.  The curtain rises, the stage is set, the show begins.

Act I: As Kaulana left the harbor we came across a cow, calf, escort combination.  We were drawn to the group because the calf had been tail slapping repeatedly.  The mother had not surfaced yet and we stuck around to see what else the calf was going to do.  Shortly after the cow surfaced, an escort came bulldozing over from 50 yards off.  The calf was entirely indifferent and kept going about his playtime.  He (I named him “Flapjack” because of the repeated tail throws, a passenger suggested I refer to the calf as “Jackie” in the event we discovered it was a girl, which we were not able to determine) actually became more active.  The calf began breaching in the direction of our stern.  Once Flapjack was with 25 yards, it was as if he had just noticed a boat was sitting there watching him.  At that point he proceeded to swim a circle around the entire perimeter of our ship, swim back to his mom, and then they went on their way. This picture is of Jackie swimming around the boat.  Check out the gallery to see the tail end of one of Jackie’s breaches.


Act II: We entered into whale search mode (a friendly way to tell passengers we don’t have whales near by but we are looking for a good group to follow) after the calf and mother meandered away.   Very quickly, a single whale approached us.  It appeared large, perhaps not entirely full grown, but certainly an older adolescent.  He wasn’t acting as strangely as many teenage whales do, leading me to believe he had a better grasp on proper whale etiquette, thus he was older and more experienced.  He ended up staying with us for 45 minutes, making us late for our return to the harbor.  He just swam back and forth, underneath us, over and over again.  My coworker Kyle had the underwater camera out and we caught some glimpses of him under the water.  Right as he began spy hoping, my camera started flashing, indicating that the battery was running out.  Spy hoping is my favorite behavior – it is a little less common since circumstances need to be just right – so naturally, I started to freak out because I needed these shots!  (A spy hop is when a whale becomes vertical in the water and raises up slowly, just allowing its nose to breach the surface and eventually its eyes as well.  Basically, the whales are checking us out.) I was able to snap a few last minute and awesome shots that are below and in the gallery.  The day flew by and ended with a spectacular encore!

Curtain drops, the end.

Read Full Post »

If I had to narrow down the capabilities of whales to one feature that they are particularly good at, I would have to say it’s the wow factor.  These animals are extraordinarily athletic and capable considering their size.  On Thursday we had just passed a cruise ship that was in the harbor and on the far side we saw a cow, calf, escort group traveling along slowly.  Sometimes these groups can be inactive if the baby is fairly young and just practicing breathing.  We stopped with the intention of moving on relatively quickly.

As I was walking down the stairs, the whales were at our stern, and the escort breached. This alone, was incredible.  The whale was huge and left me standing with my jaw dropped.  Immediately after that both adults breached simultaneously.  At that point, I believe my jaw hit the deck.  It truly doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen breaches, they still blow me away.  The showing was spectacular and certainly a sight to remember.

One of the passengers on the boat caught a perfect shot of the double breach on a standard point and shoot camera.  I gave him my email address and am keeping my fingers crossed that he sends it to me.  It really was a lucky shot considering that point and shoots aren’t always quick enough to capture the shot before the moment has passed.  If you’re out there “Guy That Really Likes Bud Light” don’t forget to send me your picture!

Read Full Post »

When cows are nursing their newborns, they produce between 100-150 gallons of milk each day, allowing the calf to gain 100 pounds per day.  The milk has a 50% fat content and is thick, about the consistency of cottage cheese.  I have read reports comparing whale milk to “krill flavored cheese.” Gross.

Read Full Post »