If you’ve been looking at any of the major news sources the past few days, you’ve undoubtedly noticed all the stories bemoaning the late arrival of the Humpback Whales to the Hawaiian Islands. We really wish that the someone had asked us what we’ve been seeing, because we could have provided them with a different angle. During the first couple weeks of December, we weren’t seeing much at all, but our sightings have been increasing dramatically since the middle of last month. This past weekend, we ran lots of whale watch cruises and saw whales on every one of them.
Highlights included seeing a Humpback with a definite brown tinge to his (her?) skin off of Kawaihae on our Friday 10:00 Cruise (Take a look at the photo…since we were more than 100 yards from the whale when the photo was taken, I did have to crop and enlarge it so you can see the whale better — but I didn’t do anything to the color). We’re not sure what caused the color…maybe an overgrowth of algae? We also got to see some great tail lobbing action (click to watch a video clip) on Friday.
On Saturday’s 8:00 Wake up with the Whales Cruise, we saw 10 different pods of 2 Humpbacks all within a couple of miles of Anaeho’omalu Bay. All of these pods were just cruising — surfacing, spouting several times, and then diving. We did get to see one pod up close when they swung by to take a look at us and surfaced just 50 feet off our starboard side. And on Sunday’s 10:00 Whale Watch we saw a dozen whales, lots of pec slapping, and to top it off, multiple double breaches.
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: In 2014, researchers published results of a study identifying the core bacterial communities living on the skin of Humpbacks regardless of which ocean the whales inhabit. Though they aren’t sure exactly how these bacteria interact with the whales, it is possible that the bacteria may be the reason the skins of the whales don’t get overwhelmed with organisms (the way boat hulls do). Also, by identifying the bacteria living on healthy whales, the researchers may have a new way to identify stressed and less healthy whales (by comparing the types of bacterial colonies from skin samples). In case you’re curious, the bacteria are Tenacibaculum and Psychrobacter. We wish we could have gotten a skin swab from our “brown” Humpback on New Year’s Day to see what was living on his skin!