We woke up to very calm winds on Friday morning, which allowed for some great sightings on our Wake up with the Whales Cruise. It took us about 45 minutes to find our first whales, but once we found them they stuck with us for over an hour. We watched 5 different Humpbacks cruise the coastline, mostly just surfacing, spouting a couple of times and then diving for 7 minutes before reappearing. At one point, pretty much everyone aboard the boat was looking towards the bow when one of those whales threw his peduncle (a “peduncle” is what we call everything from behind the whale’s dorsal fin to the back of his flukes) completely out of the water towards another whale right in front of us! Researchers posit that peduncle throws are aggressive displays…and it sure looked like this whale was trying to express something important to the others in the pod!
On our 10:00 Whale Watch from Kawaihae, we saw 3 different Humpbacks. These whales were pretty mellow…lots of spouts, and lots of dives. But we also got to see some cousins of the Humpbacks (see the “Fact of the Day” below). A pod of very active spinner dolphins found our boat and decided to play all around us, surfing our bow wake, leaping, spinning, and generally living up to their name.
Sunday, we woke up to a pretty windy day. On our 8:00 Wake up with the Whales Cruise 3 different Humpbacks found our boat. We were all surprised when out of the blue, one of them decided to breach just about 200 yards away from us!
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: Humpback Whales and Spinner Dolphins are actually related — they’re both classified under the scientific order “Cetacean” (derived from the Greek word, “ketos” which translates to “Monster”). But they’re in different sub-orders. Humpbacks are baleen whales, classified in the sub-order called “Mysticete”. Spinner Dolphins are toothed whales, classified in the sub-order “Odontocete”.
For those of you etymologists out there, “Mysticete” either translates from the Greek “mystacoceti” meaning “mustached”, which is a pretty accurate description of how the baleen in these whales’ mouths appears…or is a “mis-translation” from the Latin “Mustiketos” which means “Mouse Whale” — perhaps one of the earliest examples of a scientist (in this case, Aristotle) demonstrating he understood the concept of irony. “Odontocete” shares a common root word with “orthodontist”…and means just what it sounds like — “toothed – whale”.