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Archive for February, 2013

On February 25 we had 3 whale watches out of Lahaina Harbor. On the second trip we were only about a mile from shore when a competition group approached. There were three boats watching these whales and the four males made a large circle around the three of us. Two of them splintered from the group, and the two that stuck around gave us one incredible show. There were two males, but one of them (who we deciding to name Frosty) was desperately in need of some attention. He rolled, twirled, spy hopped, trumpeted, pec slapped, and checked us out for an hour. But what was really amazing about this day was that he not only hung out with us for our second trip, but he managed to come back and display the same behaviors on our third trip as well. On Monday we learned that, yes, lightning can strike twice…if you’re lucky!

Now, what made this trip even for spectacular for me, was that I finally decided to put my waterproof iPhone case to good use to try to get some underwater shots. I was successful not only with the still shots but with the video footage too. I have compiled it all into two videos, one for each trip. Here I have the 10:30 video, and the 1:30 is below. I hope you are as blown away by this as I am!

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February 25, 1:30 PM

Here you go! Video from the 1:30 departure…

On this trip he was joined by a second male (we are not sure if it was the same as the 10:30 trip) and about half way through a third male joined, we named him Freckles. Unfortunately, what I did not capture was Frosty opening his mouth for about 20 seconds, which was a huge highlight for me. Whales rarely open their mouths here since they are not feeding, and they do it less frequently when we have a good view of them. Enjoy!

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UPDATES

I have decided to add a new page titled “The Basics” to attempt to explain a few FAQ’s. I’ll be adding to this as more fundamentals about the waters and whales surrounding Maui pop into my head.  In the meantime, check out the new pictures I have added to the gallery.  All the underwater shots were taken using my iPhone and a genius product called a Lifeproof. Lifeproof is a thin, waterproof case that worked perfectly for me when I needed it! My next post will include 2 videos with underwater footage from February 25.  

For those of you that were on either the 10:30 or 1:30 trips on that day, your videos are on their way… stay tuned!

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Why Do Whales Sing?

At this years Whale Tales event, Dr. Jim Darling (co-founder of Whale Trust and leading expert on humpback song studies) discussed the most recent findings within this section of humpback studies. He included a lot of intriguing new information which I will attempt to sum up here:

1) The song may not just be sung in the wintering waters. We had previously thought the song was only sung in the breeding grounds, leading us to believe the song had something to do with mating. This may be entirely untrue. It appears the song is sung during all months of the year, with the exception of June, July and August (the top feeding months).

2) Although the song is sung for more months out of the year, it is sung in a different way. The length of the song is related to the migration. As the whales begin to leave their feeding grounds, the song is shorter (3 minutes on average). Once they arrive in Hawai’i, it has lengthened to the longest it will be throughout the year (up to 18 minutes). Then as they depart it begins to shrink again until it comes to a stop in June. Regardless of how long the song is, it is still the same song, they just repeat the sounds found in each verse for longer.

3) The alterations to the song is not always an evolutionary change. We usually tell passengers it takes 5-7 years before this ever changing song is completely different. This is not necessarily true. Some years have shown that when the whales return, they have experienced a revolutionary change – within one season the song changed entirely.

4) Bowhead whales sing too. This fact was unknown until recently. There is so little known of the communication between bowhead whales, that they have not identified for certain if it is even males that sing. So far, the evidence points toward female singers.

The link here gives some back ground into the humpback song.

http://www.whaletrust.org/whales/whale_song.shtml

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I am not the only person that has caught whale fever this season (although I can’t deny I probably have a stronger strain than most!) Some of my other co-workers have started getting excited about our winter friends. Here is a video that Bailey shot while working recently. Enjoy!

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Yesterday was an epic battle of the males as they fought over our single ladies.  Two things were notable throughout the day. The first was interesting, and something I have never seen before.  There was a group of about 6-8 males, fighting and getting really aggressive.  At one point, one of the males was laying on top of another.  They surfaced together several times and it was clear that he was using his body weight to hold the other one down.  Similar to how I describe orcas attacking calves, this whale was apparently attempting to hold the other under, which, if successful, would stop the other male from surfacing and getting air.

As our day came to a close, we were getting ready to head in after a sunset sail. Captain Kevin noticed a VERY large competition group out toward the wind line. We went in and found what must have been 12 + whales. These guys were incredibly aggressive. They were up and down, changing course, altering their speed…they were all over the place. It was a good show initially but what was amazing was when we left, the group followed us. It may have been the female enjoying the protection of the boat, but regardless, they surfaced near us and the battle continued beneath Trilogy IV. When they made their way to the starboard bow, we saw one animal take a head bash to the belly, meanwhile, others were landing on top of each other. We saw bloodied noses and worn down tubercles. It is clear that we have rounded the hill on the 2013 whale season and, on the back side of this season, it will be a brutal fight for the final females lingering in the basin.

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We Were This Excited

We Were This Excited

Tourists will often want a picture of themselves on our trips to remember their experience, or maybe they need a Christmas card shot of the family. Whatever the reason is, it is a happy moment they would like to remember. This particular whale watch on Wednesday, 2/13/2013 was so good, Bailey and I took our own commemorative pictures. Between the spyhops, the pec slaps, the length of the mugging, the twirls, the belly rubbing on the boat, the bulging eyes, the spouts straight to the crowd, it was none stop excitement. The kind of stuff you find in National Geographic, and for us, it was just another day at work. We are a lucky bunch!

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Scream Inducing Spy Hops

Both animals kept moving around us, left to right, front to back. Over and over for one hour and fifteen minutes. As the larger male made his way to the bow of the boat, my coworker Bailey and I were laying across the forward beam to get a closer look. Bailey was on the starboard side, when she turned around to tell our passengers to come forward to check him out. While she had her back to the whale, he had slowly come out of the water for a spy hop, and was about 2 feet from Baileys face. She, of course, did not know what had happened until she turned around and was literally face to face with 40 tons of whale. There was a very high pitched scream of surprise that immediately followed.

The next time the animal came up he sort of nipped at the ladder line that was hanging from the bow of our boat. And the final time he came up during this pass, was right in front of me on the port side (seen here). We were both screaming and running throughout this whole show. I don’t think I have ever had so much excitement watching these animals.

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You Learn Something New Every Day

Toward the end of this trip, and after having taken nearly 700 pictures (not exaggerating), I needed to do something else – up the ante a bit. I asked our captain if I could grab a mask and put my face in the water. When I did, the larger of the two males was directly below me. Now, I have always known these animals are capable of bulging their eyes outwards, in order to adjust and focus their eyes for an above water or below water environment. What I had not realized was that they are capable of something far more bizarre.

As my head was over hanging the swim step, I was essentially on top of the whale. I was looking down, directly onto his blow hole. A whale’s eyes are located at the end of their mouth, very much on the side of their head. Normally I would not expect to be able to see the eyes. In this case, he had his eyes pushed out, so I was able to see where the sockets were. What was more amazing was that his eye balls were pushed out and looking directly up at me. This is the human equivalent of standing up straight, facing the wall in front of you, bulging your eyes out, and then, with out moving your head, turning your eye balls to look straight at the ceiling. It was bizarre. Both of his eyes were focused on me, he blinked, and then continued looking at me.

A few moments after this, I had to pull my face from the water because the whale began to surface and had I not moved, his back would have touched my face. By the end of the trip I was soaking wet, but my adrenaline was pumping, and I had a permanent smile on for the rest of the day!

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One For The Records

One For The Records

Last week, was a whale watch unlike any other. I over hear people say all the time, “best whale watch ever.” To be honest, I try my hardest to avoid using this cliche. I feel it is disingenuous. If I know I am not being truthful, I think my passengers will know as well. But on this occasion, I truly cannot think of, or recall, a whale watch that was more impressive than what we saw on Wednesday. I will break a few of these stories up into separate posts, but to know that these two males hung around us for over an hour and performed every possible behavior we could have asked for, was simply stunning.

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