We have lots to report from our weekend Whale Watch Cruises.
On Friday’s Wake up with the Whales Cruise, we saw probably 20 different Humpbacks including mom and baby. Same thing with the 10:30 Cruise from Abay – – but this time the calf we were watching was much younger. Baby swam right under our boat, looking at us…and we got to see his completely flopped over dorsal fin. We ran a 1:00 Cruise from Kawaihae on Friday too, and spent most of our time watching Mom, her big baby, and a huge escort. We finally tore ourselves away from this group only to be completely surprised when a different pod of three adult whales surfaced 100 feet off our bow. Of course we stopped immediately, and watched as they slid under us and came up off our 9:00, headed to our Mom/Baby/Escort pod. All 6 whales were together for about 5 minutes, and we could see a little commotion on the surface, but the escort apparently did his job, and those three interlopers moved on. On our Whales and Cocktails at Sunset Cruise, we found the same Mom/Baby/Escort pod, and spent most of the cruise watching them. At one point, baby breached fairly close to us off our port stern.
On Saturday’s 10:00 Cruise we spent most of the cruise zig-zagging around with a competitive pod of 5 whales. At first, they were just surfacing, swimming, and then diving for about 10 minutes before surfacing again. After watching them for awhile, a guest asked us our favorite question…”what makes a Humpback breach”? Greg, our on-board naturalist, explained a couple of theories, and suggested that breaching happens frequently during competitive situations like the one we were watching. Lo and behold, about 10 minutes later, one of our competitors breached…which certainly started up something, because we saw about 14 more breaches from various members of this pod, along with multiple tail lobs, twists and turns, and lots of trumpeting…,kind of makes us wish the question had been asked a bit earlier!! On our Whales and Cocktails at Sunset Cruise, we watched Mom and Baby humpbacks…baby even breached for us a couple of times. And though we didn’t plan it, as we were toasting the sunset with Champagne at the stern of the boat, a humpback surfaced and spouted just a couple hundred yards behind us (actually, we WISH we could plan that).
On Sunday, the wind came up again and the chop, combined with a pretty big swell resulted in us having to cancel a lot of our day. We did run a private Snorkel Whale Watch Cruise from Kawaihae though, and guests joining us saw lots of spouts. We also saw lots of breaches from many, many different whales who were all out in the wind line (so we couldn’t approach comfortably).
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: Biopsy samples taken from South Pacific Humpbacks show a ratio of 2.4 males for every female on the breeding grounds. A similar ratio has been observed in Hawaii. This suggests either: 1). female Humpbacks can afford to be choosy with their mating partner; or; 2). female Humpbacks are overwhelmed by aggressive males and bullied into mating.