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After years of watching these giant creatures, I am still reminded, each day, of why I respect them and am in awe of them.  I think for all of us whale lovers, there is a pivotal moment that catches our attention and makes us interested for life.  I had this type of experience on my very first whale watch, which in hindsight, led me to create this site and always seek jobs that have allowed me to whale watch.  I continue to experience these moments out in the Maui Nui Basin, the only difference being, it’s not my first rodeo anymore.

Two days ago, we had a whale deliberately approach the boat.  He very obviously turned, approached, and hung out.  Our captain mentioned that this was the same whale he had seen the day before.  To me, certain whale encounters are remarkable and will never leave my memory bank.  Do whales have the same experience with us?  Is it possible they remember our boats? The sounds of our engines?  Or, perhaps, if they don’t remember, do they instead have engine noises they are more attracted to?  Dr. Jim Darling recently made a comparison from whales to dogs.  He claimed that dogs live in a world of scent that is 10,000 x greater than what we know, they beleive the same is true of whales and sound.  Maybe the smallest click makes a difference and interests them more than another boat.

At each company I have worked for, there has always been the cliche, “Whales love (insert boat name here.)”  They have each been of the belief that there is one boat in their fleet that the whales prefer over any other. Maybe this is the case.  Personal experience certainly backs this up.  But maybe it is observational bias, the idea that we want them to like the boat we are on and the company we work for.  Who knows? But until they tell me otherwise, I choose to beleive they remember us, our enthusiasm, and the love we have for them.

Eaves Dropping

Eaves Dropping

If you have ever been to Maui during this time of year and have gone snorkeling, you will quickly realize that you can hear the whales under water very easily.  In Kihei, there is a buoy set up that has a microphone constantly recording.  If you are interested in listening in while not on Maui feel free to click the link here and listen in to what these guys are talking about!

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!

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!

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!

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

Trilogy Elua’s Mugging

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!