My goodness, there were a lot of whales near Anaeho’omalu Bay during our Wednesday Wake Up with the Whales Cruise! Our head naturalist Greg estimated we saw somewhere around 20 different Humpbacks in the 90 or so minutes we were out at sea (and he’s not known to exaggerate)!
Most of the whales we saw were just surfacing, spouting, and either lifting their flukes to dive (we saw a lot of flukes) or just kind of disappearing under the surface. And though most of the spouts we saw were from adult Humpbacks, we did see one Mom/Calf pod.
The strangest behavior we witnessed was getting to watch a Humpback lift his pectoral flipper straight up into the air for awhile. He didn’t wave it around – he didn’t slap it on the surface of the water – and he only did it once. Why would he do this strange but certainly cool-to-watch thing? See today’s Fact of the Day for a possible explanation.
We got to see one breach on the horizon, and as we were coming back into the bay, we saw one more breach a bit closer. When we deployed the hydrophone, we heard some very clear and loud whale voices, so we know that besides the 20 Humpbacks we saw, there were quite a few more in our vicinity hanging out underwater.
The wind came up just as we were leaving for our Snorkel & Whale Watch Adventure Cruise, but luckily we saw whales splashing around on the surface right in line with where we needed to go to reach our snorkel site. As we got closer, we got to see a pair of whales breach a dozen (or more) times. They didn’t always breach simultaneously, but they sure breached a lot. We also saw some pectoral slaps and tail lobs and all sorts of commotion at the surface. While we were in the water snorkeling, there were whales on the surface just outside of our snorkel spot, but as soon as everyone returned to the boat and we dropped our mooring to head out to see them, they calmed down — we saw some spouting from them, but no more wild surface activities.
Finally, when we left the bay for our Pau Hana Sunset Cruise the wind had really filled in, which made traveling to the many, many whales we were seeing a bit challenging. But a couple of whales cooperated with us, including one who breached multiple times and tail lobbed multiple times just about 100 yards away from us, and another who surprised us by surfacing just 50 yards away from our port rails before swimming towards us.
FYI – We don’t have any cruises scheduled for Thursday, so I’ll post the next report after Friday’s trips.
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.