Archive for January, 2012

The Zipper

Today we had two incredible whale watches.  By this point in the season, I find myself saying that after almost every trip! But between a comp group that wouldn’t leave us alone and a whale with very unique scarring that ended up breaching within 100 feet of our boat, it was pretty great all in all.

During the second whale watch, we had a widespread comp group approach us.  Ship strikes are a fairly scary situation for both parties involved, it causes significant damage to boats and often times results in the death of a whale, as well.  Today we saw a whale who had very clearly survived a ship strike.  This whale had old, healed over scarring, that was arranged in parallel, deep, straight, lines.  Props are certainly the most threatening aspect of a boat to whales, and this guy had been cut bad at one point.  The good thing, that works to the animals advantage, is that their blubber is (at the peak of their weight) almost two feet thick.  This acts as a buffer and provides a crash layer that essentially protects all of the more sensitive muscle and connective tissue as well as bones.

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Feeling the Love

It has come to my attention that several of the regulars I used to see during this time of year while working on Kaulana, have been asking about me and where I am now working.  Knowing that there are people who are as passionate about whales as I have become over the last few years, and have now returned hoping to see their friend, well, it makes me smile.  I happened to run into a gentleman this morning who has been a regular for several years, and he directed me to a youtube video he put up from last year.  I found his video, along with several others that have been filmed by people I have gotten to know because of our love for these migrating giants.  I am not certain that all of these people are aware I have a blog, but as a tribute to them I have posted some of the best footage I found.  This is truly some amazing stuff.  So, thank you, everyone, for having shared these amazing experiences with me.  And for those of you who continue to ask about me, I am doing great and enjoying our blubbery friends everyday! I couldn’t be more appreciative of your thoughts and aloha…I am definitely feeling the love!

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To try to put todays whale watches into words, would be a verbal impossibility.  Our first whale watch of the day was simply, perfection.  We saw every possible behavior you could hope to see while out in the Maui waters.  We had several muggings, mom/calf/escort, a pair traveling, and a very odd adolescent (that I’ll get to shortly).  The cow/calf/escort mugging was enough to make the whale watch great, but that was only the beginning.  The pair that came over to us, were on a very direct path.  The strange thing was that they were traveling quickly and right at the surface, the result was like a shark approaching it’s prey.  There was a wake coming off the dorsal fins as they came closer.  You could see our passengers eyes getting larger with anticipation trying to figure out what was going to happen next.  They eventually slid gracefully under the boat and resurfaced on our port side.

The adolescent we had seen from fairly far off, and I was skeptical it was even a whale.  This bizarre little guy was spy hopping, but for no apparent reason.  He was by himself, just gently bobbing at the surface for the better part of an hour.  We eventually got closer to him and realized he was completely vertical in the water, slowly rising and sinking beneath the surface.  Due to this, we decided to call him Bob.  As Bob went to breathe it was clear the back portion of his body changed drastically in color.  His pedunkal area was a much lighter shade of grey.  This could be his natural coloring, or it could be the result of sea lice.  At first, this had us a little worried.  With his minimal amount of movement and the discoloration we began to think something was wrong.  After getting a little distance between us, Bob proceeded to breach about 5 times before leaving us.  This was a great indicator that he is, in fact, nice and healthy!

Like many people, I am now a proud owner of a GoPro camera.  I used this for whale watching for the first time today, and after editing out far too many minutes of open water, I created the video attached here.  My GoPro is suppose to be HD, but based on the result I’m pretty sure I lost some of that quality during the editing process.  I guess that’s what I’ll work on next time, Enjoy!

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Whale Tales 2012

On February 3 and 4 Whale Tales will be taking place at the Ritz Carlton in Kapalua.  Speakers this year will include Flip Nicklin, Mark Ferrari, Ed Lyman, Jim Darling, Meagan Jones, Dan Salden, Bruce Mate, and Craig Matkin.  If you live on Maui and want to hear some very interesting and current lectures on Cetaceans, come by and check things out!

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More Friends Return

Last season I posted about the return of the Whale Queens.  Well, they’re back again!  Without fail, these ladies have come to watch our blubbery friends year after year.  For Midge, she has now entered her 36th year of whale watching! Pretty impressive, in my opinion.  She told me last season that in all this time she has never once been seasick.  Regardless of weather or conditions these ladies will be there, enjoying all our friends have to offer.  Midge has told me her favorite whale behavior to watch is tail slapping and Pedunkle throws.  I watch those maneuvers with a smile knowing that she is always clicking away on her camera when this happens.

Marge will be leaving Maui shortly, which will be quickly followed by Sues arrival.  Marge sent me the picture showing a mugging they experienced on Friday with a very curious whale.  My favorite behavior to watch is spy hopping, which is shown in this picture   and is a fantastic display.  Thank you, ladies, for returning home to Maui again and reminding me why I love this time of year so much: not only because of the whales, but because of the amazing people, as well.

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This season I have been getting onto the water a bit less than last year, but it certainly is no less exciting!  Late last week we went out from Lahaina harbor and stumbled upon my first comp group.  Now, these are typically seen in large numbers in the latter part of the season.  The group we came across was moving quickly, but very surface active.  As usual, they never surfaced at the same time, it is difficult to say exactly how many we were watching.  My best estimate would be 8-10.  These groups can get into “super pod” size when they reach numbers closer to the 40’s and 50’s.

A couple of the animals had inflated jaw areas, and there was a substantial amount of bubble blasting taking place.  Because of their speed and constant changes in direction, it was difficult to position ourselves perfectly.  But we were close enough to have a spectacular show.  The aggression was apparent and the female was agitated enough to trumpet continuously.  All in all, anoth fantastic day in The Basin!

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This article describes how the whales not only change the songs that the males sing each year, but also how it spreads among the populations throughout the world.


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It is official (or actually, it was official on December 15, I’m just a little late to the game!) whale watch season 2012 is officially open for business!  The whale sightings began around mid October this season and the sightings seemed very promising.  Since those initial sightings however, the quantity of whales and the behaviors we have became accustomed to, is, so far, a bit slower than usual.  Talk around the whale community is suggesting that because of the nice summer in Alaska, with extra sunshine, and therefore extra food, it has led some whales take their time coming home to Maui.  Since the start of the 2012 calendar year the activity has seen a significant jump.  More reported muggings, higher numbers, and just all around better activity.

This year I am working for Trilogy, and went on my first whale watch as a naturalist, and it did NOT disappoint.  We started out by leaving Ma’alaea harbor with two adults breaching in the distance.  On our way there, we came across a calf who proceeded to breach several times.  This calf was very grey in color, usually a sign of a younger baby as they darken in color as they reach maturity.  As the mom surfaced, she whisked the little one away. We followed for a while but decided to move on to what lookd like a competition group.  As we approached, the whales dove.  Five whales went down, but as I was standing on the bow it was clear the group had broken up.  Two whales came under our boat and mugged us.  When they resurfaced it was close enough to get a whiff of the whales breath, which I might add, is not very pleasant! Think about four month old fish odor, and you’ll be on the right track. I did have a wildlife photographer on board, and he will be sending pictures soon.

This was certainly a fantastic start to my 2012 whale season, cant wait to see everyone that decides to visit this year.  It is going to be another great one!

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