HAWAII - Whale WatchingFAQ's - Humpback Whales
Where is the best place and time to see the whales?
This is the most asked question. The problem is that the whales do not publish a schedule for us. It is always a hit and miss proposition. The whales can always be sighted from any vantage point where you can see the water. The higher up and the closer you are, the better chances you have. The whale watch cruises guarantee that you will see a whale. All the boat operators stay in touch with each other via CB radio relating where the whales have been spotted. Patience has its rewards, so keep a watchful eye for that 'water vapor' raising up from the water. That is a whale's 'blow'.
How large are the whales and what do they weigh?
Humpback Whales weigh approximately 1 ton (2000 pounds) for every foot of length. Adult males reach a length of 40 feet and weigh in at 40 tons.
What is "Fluke Slapping"
This is when the whale will raise one of its two flukes and slap it against the surface of the water. Researchers believe this is another agrressive posture toward other whales. It is also believed to be a method that the female whale uses to stress or enforce a lesson to her calf.
What is "Tail Slapping"
This is when a whale will hit the surface of the water with its tail in a slapping motion. It is not quite known why they do this. Researchers have speculated that it is used by the males to either attract females or it is an aggressive posture to ward off other males.
How do researchers identify one whale from another?
Humpback Whales can be identified by the markings and shape of their tails. These indentifying markings are as individual as our fingerprints. Researchers take pictures of all whales sighted and catalog the pictures in large albums. Each year they compare the new pictures to the ones previously catalog. They then can tell which whales are returning to Hawaii each year. One year they had sighted a specific whale in Baja California and then three weeks later the same whale was sighted in the waters around Hawaii. It was something that they had not expected.
What is "Breaching"
This is when the whale lifts almost its entire body out of the water. It will turn its body while in the air so that it will land on its back. Researchers speculate that they breach to remove parasites such as barnacles from their bodies. Other theories are that they want to take a look around, they are just being playful, or that they are trying to attract the attention of other whales.
What is "Spy Hopping"
This is when the whale will poke its head out of the water vertically just far enough for his eyes to break the surface. Researchers believe they do this to look around to either see who or what is around or to get their bearings.
Do whales leave "Footprints"
Whales create a footprint that is visble on the surface of the water. It is a circular area where the surface of the water is smoother than the surrounding water. This smoothness is the result of the vortex created by the whale's tail as it moves it through the water just below the surface.
How many whales visit the Hawaii waters?
It is believed that approximately 1,500 to 2,000 humpback whales visit the waters around Hawaii each year between December 15th and May 15th.
What do the whales eat while they are in Hawaii?
The whales do not eat while they are here. They live off their thick coat of blubber. They only feed in the polar waters near Alaska during the summer and fall months. They are baleen whales. They feed only on small shrimp-like critters called krill which are abundant in the polar waters.
How do they eat?
The humpback will dive down deep under a large swarm of Krill. It will begin a slow circular motion while blowing bubbles out of its blowhole. The raising bubbles corral the Krill. The whale will then open its mouth fully and swim up through the center of the circle of bubbles it created scooping up the corraled Krill. It will continue its upward movement until it breaks the surface of the water. The water will then flow out through the baleen but leaving the Krill trapped in the whales mouth. The whale ends up with a feast.
How much weight do the calves gain each day?
The female will nurse her calve to gain 200 pounds a day during the first few weeks of life.
How close can I get to the whales?
In 1992 the official Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sancutuary came into being. Under this Act, it is unlawful for anyone, without special permission, to come within 300 yards of the humpbacks in the known calving areas and 100 yards in all other areas.
How often do whales breathe?
Humpbacks need to breathe every 7 to 20 minutes.
What kind of binoculars are good for whale watching?
I have found that a 10x40 wide angle lens work very well.
Who is the whale named 'Yoda"?
The Hawaiian Whale Research Foundation has documented the appearance of one particular whale that has been returning for the last few years. They have named it 'Yoda". "Yoda" is noted for its ability to "sail" its tail out of the water for up to 20 minutes. It appears like a boat on the horizon.
Which gender of the Humpback Whale does the singing?
The male whale is the only one that sings.
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