Friday’s Wake up with the Whales Cruise began with sightings of Mom Humpback and her little calf at our 9:00 about 100 yards away, and a pair of adult Humpbacks at our 12:00 about 200 yards away. While we were watching all of these whales, we were surprised by another pair of whales who surfaced just about 100 feet from us at our 6:00.
After our 6:00 whales sounded, we saw some commotion a couple of hundred yards ahead of us so we motored over to take a look. It turned out that there was another pair of 2 adult Humpbacks and they were heading towards a different Mom/Calf pod. As those adults approached Mom, a BIG escort surfaced between Mom and those other guys, and a whale “fight” broke out. We heard some very loud trumpeting and saw a lot of splashing as all 3 males postured for dominance. It appeared that poor Mom wasn’t at all interested in getting involved with the fighters, and she began circling our boat, which attracted the males..so now all 5 whales were just 25 yards from us. Momma and baby made a run for it…but when they were about 120 yards away, she turned back around and kind of circled us again. We weren’t sure what caused her to change course, but we did see 2 other adult Humpbacks approaching, so she may have decided that while her new direction would free her from those first interested males, it might bring unwanted attention from the new guys.
In all the ruckus, we lost sight of Mom and calf (so her strategy must have worked) but 3 of those big males kept up the competition. Unfortunately our time was up and we had to make the heart-breaking decision to turn the boat around and drive away from the excitement. We kept an eye on those competing males and watched the “fight” continue as we headed back to the bay.
Ocean Sports Whale Fact of the Day: Dr. Alison Craig and her associates observed that female Humpbacks in Hawaii with calves in tow swim 75% faster when they’re being chased by males in deep water than when they’re being chased in shallow water. As water depth decreased so did the number of males following the mother, making females most likely to be found alone with their calves in the shallows. So why is this observation important? Dr. Craig suggests that it is unwanted male attention which causes the females and calves to increase their swimming speed, in turn requiring the mothers to supply their calves with more milk to compensate for the extra energy they’ve used. Since the females aren’t feeding in Hawaii, the researchers theorize that these female Humpbacks are actually seeking shallow water not to avoid predators… .but to avoid the energetic consequences of male Humpback sexual harassment (as we witnessed today)!