Guests on Monday’s Wake Up with the Whales Cruise saw 5 different Humpbacks. We spent most of our time with a lone whale who was lifting his giant pectoral flipper into the air pretty frequently. He wasn’t slapping the water (or another whale) with it, so we don’t think he was trying to communicate his health, location or dominance. Why would he be doing this? See today’s “Fact of the Day” for a possible answer. Regardless of the reason, it was really fun to watch, especially knowing that Humpbacks have the longest pectoral flippers of any of the great whales, and that we were witnessing the body part that inspired their scientific name of Megaptera novaeangliae (“Big-winged New Englander”).
On our Mid-Morning Whale Watch Cruise from Kawaihae we saw two Humpbacks just outside of the harbor. We got to watch them spouting and swimming on the surface for awhile…and then the winds picked up, blowing easily 50 – 70 knots with MUCH higher gusts. The wind may have excited the whales, because they started breaching fairly close to us. Unfortunately, it was so windy that some of our guests didn’t want to leave the cabin, so, we turned back to the harbor and ended the cruise (safely), offering everyone aboard the opportunity to join us again on another cruise for free.
Finally, on our Snorkel & Whale Watch Adventure Cruise, we had just tied up to the mooring at our snorkel site when we heard a distress call from the Coast Guard for a zodiac that was unable to get back to shore off of Puako. As we were the closest boat, we volunteered to answer the call. We did find the boat — everyone aboard it was ok — so we helped them get back to our snorkel site, and then eventually back to Anaeho’omalu Bay. While we were at the snorkel site, a pod of Spinner Dolphins chose to swing past our moored boat giving those guests who were aboard quite the show. We also saw several Humpbacks breaching, but it was just too windy to go investigate them more closely.
Ocean Sports Whale Fact of the Day: Why would a Humpback stick a body part up into the breeze? During prolonged exercise in warm water a Humpback’s body will generate heat — the same thing happens to you when you’re exercising — but you’ll start sweating to cool down. Humpbacks don’t have sweat glands, and since they have some control over their circulatory systems, as they heat up, they can direct blood flow into a network of capillaries near the surface of the their flippers, flukes and dorsal fin (in Latin these capillaries called “rete mirabilis” which translates to “miracle network”). This in turn allows the excess body heat to be shed to the external environment through evaporation and convection. So many researchers believe that whales who are resting with their flukes exposed vertically in the air, or lifting their pectoral flippers for prolonged periods of time are actually trying to cool off