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Archive for December, 2012

Mating Officially Documented

On June 21 this year, The Daily Telegraph officially released pictures of mating, taken in the waters surrounding Tonga. Although these pictures were shot two years ago, scientists were hesitant to share the photos with the public. They wanted to be 100% sure that it was, in fact, mating that they had captured. Until now, mating has been a mystery to us. Whales tend to be fairly elusive with this aspect of their behavior, we often will see competition groups form, and assume mating takes place shortly after. But no one really knew for sure.

The article suggests that their mating was a brief interaction, which may explain why we’ve never seen it, or documented it, before now. A few unexpected things happened while observing the coupling: The male selected was not the largest, nor the primary escort, but rather a smaller competitor. Also, the female released a bubble blast from her mouth, not her blow holes, as the couple seperated.

At the 2012 Whale Tales event, an annual Maui conference put on by Whale Trust, Dr. Dan Salden shared a series of still shots which they initially beleived to be mating. After further reviewing the pictures, and beginning to identify each of the individuals involved, they realized there were no females participants in the group. A disappointing discovery, especially after beleiving they were so close to finally having the highly sought after documentation. Hopefully, as this season progresses, we will be able to document this behavior for the first time, here at home in Hawaii.

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World Wide Migration Patterns

When poeple come out to Maui to visit they always wonder if these are the same whales they have seen on other vacations. Same whales as Cabo? The Dominican Republic? Cape Cod? The answer is there are several populations of whales, occupying every ocean on the planet. This map, provided by the National Park Service, breaks down the migration of each stock of humpbacks.

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Yesterday’s 9:00 am whale watch was one of a kind. This is now my fifth season of watching humpbacks and their behavior, and still, I see new things all the time.

We came across what we thought was a calf. It was not moving a whole lot, the spouts were small in size, and it’s also possible my observation skills are a little rusty still. He was fairly inactive but leaving wasn’t really an option since we couldn’t see any other activity within range. We waited him out and it paid off. He eventually got moving and came straight toward us. As he got closer it was quite obvious that this was an adolescent. He was pretty erratic, moving quickly from side to side and making sharp, fast turns. It was exhausting trying to keep up! I have to admit, in all the muggings I’ve seen I haven’t had a whale actually nudge the boat. After multiple spy hops, within arms length, that’s exactly what he did! At one point it seemed like he was going to rest his nose on the swim step! This was a trip worth remembering for years to come.

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Let The Games Begin!

Today was our first whale watch of the season. The official season begins tomorrow, but we had a cruise ship in today and started our tours 24 hours early. Activity was not particularly impressive but we had an enthusiastic crowd that was ready to learn about our marine friends. Today felt very much like the proverbial calm before the storm. Just a quick taste of what it will be like when we have four whale watches a day and a full boat every time. Busy season is among us, so stay tuned…

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