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Archive for March, 2011

One of our passengers was able to capture this picture of an extremely mangled tail we saw on one of our trips, entirely putting the plane wing to shame! This picture really makes me wonder…what the heck happened?!

PHOTO PROVIDED BY: Allen Clark / Photoboat.com

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We have had a lovely turn of events and have had the whales return, well sort of.  Although in general the whales are slowly making their way back to Alaska, the Big Red Boat had the whales quieted down for several days.  When I went out on the water yesterday, we saw a huge jump in activity from the last few days.  Certainly, a relief.

During our first trip we saw a group of three small whales, very odd from the start.  We quickly realized one was obviously a calf, but the other two were not large.  The largest was definitely the mother based on proximity to the calf but the third whale was way to small to be an escort.  In fact, he was roughly the size of a yearling (a whale born in Maui last season and has returned with his mother the following year).  If our assumptions are correct it means we saw a mom traveling with two of her kids!  This is something I have never seen before, let alone heard of before.  Typically a mother will give birth every 2-3 years, to avoid the strain of carrying a calf while also nursing a calf — but our sighting seemed to defy that standard.

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Recently we saw a cow/calf/escort combo and the baby was copying the tail throws of the male.  It appeared to be learning from the male, similar to how we assume the female teaches her baby.  It’s possible the calf is a sponge at this age, like our babies are, and can learn from anything in their environment. Check out the video below!

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I often get asked if whales are bothered by the boats in Maui.  For the most part, no.  However, sometimes we have Naval ships, submarines, or large NOAA boats come through this area.  Depending on what they are doing here, some of those ships do affect the whales.  There has been a red boat in the roadstead for a few days now and the whales are not anywhere near that part of the sanctuary.  It is a private ship under contract with the Navy but I assume the are doing something that is making noise underwater and affecting the ability for the whales to communicate.  It is definitely interesting to see such a strong reaction.

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As we head toward the end of March there has certainly been a change in what is happening out in the water.  we have been seeing primarily competition groups and calf/cow/escort combinations.  Captain dave recently told me a statistic: 85% of cow/calf combos at this time of the year will have an escort tagging along.  That is a high number and reveals how desperately these males will try to mate before having to head back 3,200 miles without food.  Yesterday was a fairly slow day, but on the last trip we got mugged by a cow/calf/escort.

We first approached the group because the calf was breaching and it was the most activity we had seen all day.  They made there way over to the boat, and the baby was large.  After spending 20 minutes with the whales we realized it was a little girl whale hanging out with her mom.  Mom was using the boat as a barricade between herself and the boat.  Although the calf was quite large, she continued to stay right on her moms nose while she was near the boat. The escort would snort and snarl as he cruised by and seemed truly irritated.  Every time the male came by the female would inch closer to us.  It was an incredible encounter the ended our day on a high note.  Kyle got some incredible under water footage, I will have it up soon.

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Tsunami 2011

Last night at 7:46 Maui time, the 8.9 earthquake struck Japan’s eastern coast.  Once the world began to learn of the quake, we realized Hawaii was in the line of fire for the Tsunami style waves that are one of the many ripple effects of such a large rupture on the Earth’s crust.  Working for a boat company means that you need to clear the harbor of all vessels to ensure boats do not end up on the streets.  Basically, at about midnight last night, the harbor was busy with people taking their boats out.  We fueled up and headed out to the Maui Princess and waited for news of first Wake Island, then Kauai, then Oahu.  We started seeing blog responses pop up about 6 foot waves coming into various locations on Oahu.  Maui’s surge style waves began around 3:30 am.

The boats were fine out on the moorings, we could feel a change in tide and current but nothing too extreme where we were.  By around 6 am we decided it was time to try to enter the harbor.  The problem is the surging that occurs after an event like this.  As we approached the channel to enter the harbor, we noticed that it was basically dry.  An area that is typically 8-10 feet deep was shallow enough we could see the sand.  Within minutes it had filled back up.  When the water level had come up, we tried to get into the harbor, the video below shows what happened next.

Once we were safely out of the rip tides, we went to the Kaulana and slept until it was safe to try again.  By about 9:00 we gave it a second try and made it back in one piece.  On the way in, there was so much debris we had to be sure to avoid planks, CO2 tanks, sings, coolers, etc.  The harbor itself was covered in silt and sand and it was obvious massive amounts of water had covered the harbor almost entirely.  Storage boxes were moved across the harbor, gangways were pushed to the opposite end of the dock.  Although this was only a fraction, if that, of what Japan is experiencing, it was certainly enough to rattle us.

News of the devastation that is happening in Japan is both saddening and terrifying.  We have those affected by this disaster in our thoughts as they continue to deal with this tragedy and the long road of recovery ahead.

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We went out on Thursday and had a couple of great muggings throughout the day.  For the most part we have been seeing cow/calf/escort combinations recently.  On the second trip yesterday one mother presented her baby to out boat.  They will do this to familiarize their calves with the boats in Maui, since the boats will be a part of their lives every year when they migrate down here.  The baby was on her moms nose and rolled over onto her back with both pec fins up in the air.  At one point the mom was coming over to the bow and the baby came too.  As she was rolling back to her tummy she looked up and made eye contact with me.  There are few things I enjoy more then watching a whale, watching us.

We got to see some of these whales up close as well, since the babies were either presented or just were interested and came over to check us out.  The middle two trips were amazing and left us feeling like it was another great day on the water!

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