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Photo provided by Patrick Devault

Today, we had a snorkel trip in the morning, followed by a whale watch.  If any of you were around today, you would know it was a pretty rainy day.  This typically gets me excited, any time there’s a slight change in weather, it is kind of nice!  The whales do not mind a change in weather, in fact, I think they prefer it. We saw a few breachers in the final minutes of our snorkel trip.

As we embarked on our whale watch, I was literally freezing.  Probably the coldest I have ever been since I have lived in this state (only exception may be Haleakala at sunrise!) We didn’t have to go very far out of the harbor before we came across a curious adolescent, one of my favorite types of whales! They come here with the intention of learning about mating. Humpbacks reach sexual maturity at 5-8 years, but the North Pacific whales don’t begin reproducing until their mid-late teens.  Which means that in the mean time, they will come down here to learn about fighting and how to attract the attention of a female.  But for the most part, in my opinion, they are bored, which means they do weird things to fill the time…just like our teenagers =)

This little guy was near Kaulana, left Kaulana and came to check out our boat, Trilogy Elua.  He stayed with us for the majority of our trip.  He spy hopped, breached, threw his tail, slapped his tail, rolled over, pec slapped, breathed, looked at us, and just checked us out.  He was amazing.  This was the first whale of the season I could tell for sure was a male.  When he rolled over you could clearly see he didn’t have a hemispherical lobe, a basketball sized lump only females have.  Check out the attached pictures, that’s me in the north face jacket…like i said, it was cold!!

Photo provided by Patrick Devault

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Photo provided by Patrick Devault

This whale season has seemed a bit odd so far.  Typically as we head out into the Basin each day there are spouts in every direction and choosing which to pursue is the hardest part.  This hasn’t exactly been the case recently.  It feels like the whales aren’t really around anymore. It feels like it is April, when just yesterday it was still February.  That being said, our first whale watch yesterday was pretty bad.  One of the slower ones I have worked in a while…until the end.  We had a mom calf and two escorts approach our boat and mug us for at least a half an hour.

I took no pictures, unfortunately, because when they approached I grabbed a snorkel set and dunked my face (but I was pretty much drenched head to toe in the end) in the water to check them out.  At first when I looked under water the mom was about 10 feet from me and just starring right at me.  The baby was on her nose and they rounded the stern so it was hard for me to get a look.  As I lifted my head up, I realized an escort had been coming in from behind where I was sitting.  He exhaled from about 8 feet away, and very nearly scared me to death! It’s a little surprising to discover you had no idea a 50 ton animal was sneaking up on you.

That escort ended up diving but on his way down did all kinds of acrobatic maneuvers, which brought to light something that now seems so obvious, but had never crossed my mind before.  I have always been used to these guys “showing off” on the surface, but never gave any thought to how they “show off” under water.  It was pretty amazing to see the grace, speed, and maneuverability first hand.  The mom and calf circled the boat and came back around.

I was watching them come and go until at one point I thought the mom was going to nudge me.  It was hard to keep myself in one place while this massive whale was coming straight toward me.  She was moving slowly, but still.  I was moving my arm and waving and was watching the babies eye following my hand as the mom approached.  She was just a few feet from my hand before they turned away.  It was incredible.  I was shaking and speechless.

Captain Patrick was driving yesterday and climbed up the mast to take pictures during our mugging.  He got some amazing shots and footage, like the one posted above.

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Yesterday we got mugged, big time. The trip we were on was actually a snorkel trip, but on the way back from Olowalu we came across some very curious whales.  We had no idea that they were going to get this close to us.  The video I have posted here is a little deceiving, I don’t know a lot about cameras, but I am told my GoPro has a very wide angle lens, and makes things look farther away than they actually are.  I assure you, if my arm had been 4 feet longer, I would have touched this whale! At one point I thought he was going to nudge the boat hook my camera was attached to. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did, these animals are amazing and I hope I can share my excitement with you through this video.  Please pay special attention to how often the whale looks directly at the camera. It makes you wonder, who’s watching who??

 

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Tuesday was the first nice day I have seen since I have been here. And the animals sure seemed to be enjoying the wonderful conditions. We headed out and saw a humpback not doing much, just breathing and moving along.  Soon we noticed a tail slapper going off about a mile out.  We headed off to check him out and as we approached the whale breached.  Most of the boat boat missed it, which seemed frustrating at first, until the two whales put on an incredible, simultaneous performance.  After having about a ten minute down time they came up to breach together.  I think that both animals were adolescent in age, both appearing slightly smaller than a full grown adult. They continued to breach a handful of times, before we had to leave for the rest of our tour. We went on to see Harbor Seals, Mountain Goats, Orcas, Dall’s Porpoise, and lots of seabirds.  All in all an incredible day!

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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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I have added some shots to the gallery from various passengers (and friends) who have sent me pictures.  Check it out!

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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.

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