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Dominance or Just Irritation?

a shark swimming in blue water

January 9, 2024


Whoo – boy — Monday’s Whale Watch Cruises were a lot of fun!

We spent most of our Wake Up with the Whales Cruise drifting along with a pod of 5 very competitive Humpbacks. These whales were definitely showing off their size and strength (and probably their annoyance and irritation) to each other. We saw a LOT of head lunging, and heard a lot of trumpeting as they spouted close to the boat. And when I say close, I mean close — they seemed to be aware that we were there since they never bumped into us, but they also seemed not at all bothered by our presence — at one point they surfaced just about touching distance from us.

These energetic whales captured our attention the whole trip — except for the minute or so that we all got to watch a 6 foot long oceanic whitetip shark cruise right beneath our bow (full disclosure — the picture above isn’t of “our” oceanic white tip). The shark was only a couple of feet below the surface, so we all got a good view of him. We didn’t get to see if he was attempting to interact with the Humpbacks, or if the Humpbacks even noticed him, but since all of these animals were very close together presumbly, they were at least aware of each other.

And even though we were back out on the water for our Late Morning Whale Watch Cruise just an hour or so after we had returned from the first cruise, it was a totally different experience. On this trip, we spent considerable time with Momma whale, her baby and their Escort (for more on the Escort, see today’s Fact of the Day). Based on their relative sizes and the location where they were swimming, we were pretty sure it was the same Mom/baby pair we’ve been seeing the past few days, but if it was them, this was the first time we had seen an escort with them. The trio were moving pretty quickly, which meant that they were needing to breath more frequently so we got to see the two adults on the surface quite a bit, and the baby even more.

Just an FYI, due to the impending storm approaching the Big Island, we’ve cancelled our Tuesday cruises (better safe than sorry) so I won’t be posting a report on Wednesday!



Ocean Sports Whale Fact of the Day: We frequently see Mom and Baby Humpback accompanied by a third whale, who we call an “Escort”. We used to think this  Escort was a female helping mom take care of her baby, but now that we can identify gender more easily, we know it isn’t. It’s a male. Though a new mom ovulates infrequently, researchers posit that perhaps the male whale is “hoping to make a good impression” so when she is receptive, he may be the first to mate with her. Unless it’s a very strange coincidence, this escort is not the father of the calf as male Humpbacks aren’t involved in raising their own offspring. Since the gestation period for a Humpback is about a year, “Dad” was last year’s love interest.