Whalewatching 2015: Part 2

6 Mar
As a female Humpback whale rolls over onto her back, waving her pectoral fins, her days-old calf cruises at the surface just of the right of her left fin.

As a female Humpback whale rolls over onto her back, waving her pectoral fins, her days-old calf cruises at the surface just of the right of her left fin. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

31 January Cruise

The weather conditions were excellent for a photo shoot: sunny and warm, with a light northeasterly breeze.

lunge and blow closeup

Closeup of an aggressive male blowing while doing a head-lunge to intimidate other males in his competition pod. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

There were a few low scattered clouds clinging to the flanks of Haleakala, but a moderately thick blanket of “vog” (volcanic fog) hung over the entire bay and extending out into the channel ruined chances for getting decent shots of more than a few hundred yards (hence the “over-exposed” look of some of this day’s photos).  As is often the case, this cruise had a fairly unpromising start. We encountered only a few solitary whales napping (“logging”) at the surface, as well as a cow-and-calf pair bobbing peacefully on the glass-smooth surface. Then Capt Joe located a small, fast-moving surface-active competition pod of four whales.

Female in a competition pod rolls over onto her back and begins waving her huge (15 feet long) pectoral fins.

Female in a competition pod rolls over onto her back and begins waving her huge (15 feet long) pectoral fins. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

As Ocean Intrigue followed at a discrete distance, the pod members engaged in lots pec-waving (believed to be a behavior exclusive to sexually-receptive females; see photo) and head-lunging (a males-only behavior intended to intimidate other males in the pod). This pretty much set the tone for the rest of the cruise.

Closeup of a surprise head-lunge.

Closeup of a surprise head-lunge. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

About 1.5 miles west of Papawai Point, we found several more small competition pods, each led by a happily pec-waving female egging on her complement of energetic head-lunging suitors.

A large female leading a competition pod heads straight for my boat!

A large female leading a competition pod heads straight for my boat! (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

At about the 1.5 hour mark, a very active competition pod with a female in the lead headed straight for the boat. Joe set the engines to neutral to keep from injuring the whales. The female, who had been paralleling the boat close to starboard (my side!), dove under the boat and stayed there for several minutes, using the catamaran-hulled Ocean Intrigue to get away from the overzealous males for a bit; I got some nice “turquoise” shots of the female just below us.

Turquoise in the water! As she prepares to swim under my boat to escape the attentions of male whales, this whale displays the white coloration (appears blue-green just under water) patterns on the dorsal (upper) aspect of her pectoral fins.

Turquoise in the water! As she prepares to swim under my boat to escape the attentions of male whales, this whale displays the white coloration (appears blue-green just under water) patterns on the dorsal (upper) aspect of her pectoral fins. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

I took 1,141 shots, of which I later kept about 24 percent (260 frames). Joe says every cruise is unique and has its own “theme”: today was a GREAT day for pec-waving!

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