Guests on Tuesday’s Mid-Morning Whale Watch Cruise spent most of the trip with 2 very active Humpbacks. We first found them offshore of the Hilton Waikoloa Resort (which meant we hadn’t traveled far at all), when one of them lifted his long pectoral flipper up into the air, kind of waving us over to view him. At that point we thought he was all alone, and we watched him dive underwater, figuring the show was over. We were completely surprised when he next resurfaced right alongside another whale.
Neither of these whales was very big but we could tell that one of them was a few feet longer and a bit bulkier than the other. Both of them stayed with our boat at about the 75 yard mark for most of the cruise. At one point, they both just kind of floated about 50 yards from us. We saw lots of turny-twisty dives from these two, and we saw their flukes many times. Towards the end of the cruise, they turned and swam right down our starboard side, getting within 10 yards of the boat — and if that wasn’t enough, one of them did a peduncle throw (threw the back half of his body out of the water — usually interpreted as an aggressive behavior, probably directed at the other whale – see today’s Fact of the Day for more on this). And then as we all watched, the other whale breached!
When we lowered the hydrophone during the cruise, we heard some pretty loud and clear sounds, but though we scanned all around us while watching our two whales, we never did see any other spouts or splashes in our vicinity.
Ocean Sports Whale Fact of the Day: Why would a whale waste the energy to throw the back half of his or her body out of the water in a Peduncle Throw (sometimes repetitively)?? Since the whales aren’t telling, all we can do is try to interpret their behavior in terms of what else is going on in their lives at that moment. We know that Humpbacks very rarely eat while they’re in Hawaii, and since a Peduncle Throw is a huge expenditure of energy (if you don’t believe me, try it yourself next time you’re in the ocean), it’s got to be important to the whale. Throwing half of yourself out of the water results in a huge splash and might be a way to communicate location, health, excitement, aggression or irritation to near-by whales. Especially if the near-by whale happens to be so near that he gets landed upon!