Wednesday marked the first day of Spring, and we celebrated the equinox with the Humpbacks. We found a Mom/Baby pod right out of the harbor on our Mid-Morning Cruise, and watched them for more than 20 minutes. Baby did lots of dives down to her waiting Mom, and Mom made a few surface appearances too. Once we decided to leave this pair to themselves, we cruised around seeing spouts, dorsal fins, and flukes from at least 10 other whales. At the end of the cruise, we found a different Mom/Baby pair (we know they weren’t the same two we saw in the beginning of our trip because they were different sizes). We also got a chance to deploy our hydrophone and heard some very loud and clear vocalizations, so we’re guessing there are still plenty of male whales around our area.
After this cruise, we went right back out again on a dedicated Educational Whale Watch with the parents, leaders, and keiki from Waikoloa Cub Scout pack 38. We’re not sure who had more fun…all of us on the boat, or the whales who came to visit. We got to see breaches and lots of other great surface activities, and the scouts learned about the whales and the importance of keeping the ocean environment clean and healthy.
Ocean Sports Whale Fact of the Day: Throughout the season, I’ve been using the pronouns “him” and “her” almost randomly when referring to Humpbacks in these blog posts. And that’s because unless there’s a calf around, it’s pretty much impossible to identify the gender of a Humpback from our vantage point. If there is a calf, the whale closest to the baby is usually “Mom”, and any other whales joining the pod are males. So how do researchers figure it out? If you’re underneath the whale…or if the whale rolls over close to your boat and you know exactly what you’re looking for, you may be able to distinguish between the genders. A female Humpback’s genital slit is almost adjacent to her anus, separated only by a small lump called a “Hemispherical Lobe”. She also has two visible mammary grooves located on either side of her genital opening. A male Humpback’s genital slit on the other hand, is about midway between his umbilicus and anus (so, they’re much further apart than a female’s), and he lacks that “hemispherical lobe”.