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Whales, Wind, and Peduncles


a bird flying over a body of water

Peduncle Throw – Image courtesy of Jeff McConnel

If you’re the kind of person who finds cruising on boats in the wind to be fun and exhilarating (like we tend to be), you would have loved our Wednesday Wake Up with the Whales Cruise. When we got to the beach in the morning and saw the conditions, we made sure that everyone who had reserved the cruise knew that it would be an exciting (and safe) ride, and gave people a chance to reschedule if that wasn’t what they were looking for. And though we did see spouts and splashes from Humpbacks around us during the cruise, the winds and seas kept building, so Captain Ryan brought us back safely and gave everyone who had joined us a chance to reschedule for FREE.
Meanwhile the conditions were a lot calmer up in Kawaihae. Guests joining us on our Mid-Morning Whale Watch Cruise spent some time with a Mom/Calf pod. These two just seemed to be calmly cruising around us…not necessarily checking us out, but not bothered that we were idling 100 yards + from them. As usual, we saw quite a bit more of the calf on the surface than we did of Mom, but when she did come up to breathe, she was always right by his side. And though we did see spouts here and there from other Humpbacks in the area, the only surface activity we saw was something we usually interpret to be an aggressive one. Most of us got to see a single peduncle throw from a lone whale. We’re not really sure why he threw the back half of his body out of the water, as this big exertion of energy didn’t seem to be directed at any other whales (or us). Maybe his skin was irritated and this was a way for him to relieve the irritation or to “scratch an itch”? Or maybe he was remembering and re-enacting a not-so-friendly encounter he had with another whale?
Ocean Sports Whale Fact of the Day: Throughout this season, I’ve mentioned the “peduncle throw” many, many times. But what’s a “peduncle”? We call the region between the whales’ flukes and his main body, a “peduncle”…but why such a strange word? I was wondering about the etymology of the word, so I looked it up. Turns out that the word “peduncle” comes from the Latin word “ped” which means foot. It was first used to describe the stalk of a flower, fruit, or tumor. I guess that makes sense…the back part of the whale does sort of look like a stalk, bearing the whale’s wide flukes. Check out the image above (which, by the way, wasn’t taken on today’s charter), and see if you agree there’s a resemblance.
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