The whales were SINGING during Wednesday’s Wake Up with the Whales Cruise. Since the winds were calm, we got the opportunity to lower the hydrophone a few times during the cruise, and each time we heard some very loud and clear songs. One of those times, while the boat was just sitting and we were enjoying the songs, we watched as a pair of Humpbacks kept surfacing and spouting closer and closer to us. Eventually, these two surfaced right next to us and swam just under the surface alongside us, obviously checking us out…and these were adult humpbacks — each of them was 40+ feet long.
By the time we left for our Mid-Morning Whale Watch Cruise (also from Anaeho’omalu) the trade winds had filled in so we weren’t able to deploy our hydrophone, but it didn’t matter too much as we had plenty to look at. We saw lots of spouts from lots of different whales, but spent most of our time with a Momma and her little calf. The baby was very interested in us, and Mom seemed to trust us too. She let him come right up to us (though she wasn’t so permissive that she let him venture over to us alone — she was right by his side), giving us some incredible views of the two of them. After finally bidding them “aloha”, we headed back to the bay, once again seeing lots of spouts from adult Humpbacks. For our grand finale, we found ourselves surrounded (and escorted) by a very big pod of Spinner Dolphins.
Ocean Sports Whale Fact of the Day: Though no one is really sure how Humpback Whales are able to navigate so accurately through the open ocean to find Hawaii, research conducted on the migratory paths of a few South Atlantic and a few South Pacific Humpbacks between 2003 and 2007 did show that regardless of currents on the surface, storms and obstacles, the humpbacks never deviated more than about 5 degrees from their straight-line paths. Researchers don’t think the whales are relying solely on the earth’s magnetic fields for navigation, since magnetism varies too widely to explain the straight paths the whales swim. They also don’t think the whales are relying solely on the sun to navigate (like many birds do) because the ocean wouldn’t provide an adequate frame of reference. It’s possible the whales use both those methods, combined with celestial markers. Or maybe the whales navigate by following the sounds of each other’s voices.
Saying that, just last week, researchers from Duke University presented study findings showing a definite correlation between the number of solar flares and the number of Grey whale strandings (Gray whales, like our Humpbacks, migrate long distances seasonally between feeding and breeding areas), saying “whales are stranding a lot more often when the sun is doing crazy stuff.” This correlation hints at the importance of the perception of magnetic fields in migratory navigation. If you’d like to read more about this research, click here.