Whalewatching 2015: Part 4

17 Mar
Breach - A difficult long shot - 8 Feb

This was a particularly difficult shot because of the extreme distance to the subject (more than 1,000 yards) and the poor visibility due to a thick blanket of “vog” (volcanic smog) over the entire bay. (Click on image to see a larger version.)

8 February Cruise

As with the previous day’s cruise, the whales were not exhibiting a lot of variety of behaviors: whales in competition pods were mostly engaged in chasing one another around the bay, with lots of head lunges and displays of some other violent but otherwise unidentifiable surface behaviors.

Sailboat and competition pod - 8 Feb

As the female leading a competition pod rolls over onto her left side, two adjacent males jostle one another to gain the role of “primary escort” next to the female; all this as the crew of a becalmed sailboat looks on. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

The weather was warm and mostly sunny, but with poor long-distance visibility due to thick layer of “vog” obscuring the islands of Molokini, Kaho’olawe, and Lana’i. However, the surface conditions were ideal for a shoot: calm seas with a light breeze out past the bay’s wind line, and a slight south-by-southwest swell.

Sailboat and competition pod 3 - 8 Feb

As the energy level in this competition pod increased, violent collisions between the male contenders caused the sole female to be bumped and shoved roughly as she was engaged in some pectoral fin-waving. There’s no such thing as male chivalry in an energetic competition pod. (Click on image to see a larger version.)

Fluke slash and bubble-blowing - 8 Feb

Three members of a competition pod use aggressive fluke-slashing and bubble-blowing behaviors to intimidate one another. (Click on image to see a larger version.)

Occasionally, I like to include other subjects in the shot other that just whales biffing one another. As luck would have it, one of the Ocean Intrigue’s sister ships, the Ocean Voyager, managed to squeeze into my camera frame while following us as we tracked a surface-active competition pod. I decided to get some shots of the pod members showing-off their dance moves as Ocean Voyager hovered nearby.

Ocean Voyager and comp pod 2 - 8 Feb

Pacific Whale Foundation’s Ocean Voyager monitoring the antics of a very energetic surface-active competition pod. (Click on image to see a larger version.)

Ocean Voyager and whale blowing - 8 Feb

The Ocean Voyager and a blowing whale. (Click on image to see a larger version.)

Ocean Voyager and comp pod 3 - 8 Feb

The Ocean Voyager waits patiently for the members of a surface-active competition pod to move off before her captain restarts the engines. (Click on image to see a larger version.)

Head lunge, bloody tubercles, and pec-fin turquoise - 8 Feb

A male participant in an energetic competition pod prepares to come down hard on a competitor; the turquoise color just below the surface is the ventral aspect of the pectoral fin of the whale on the receiving end of this head lunge. (Click on image to see a larger version.)

If you look closely at the photo above (click on the image to see the larger original version), you’ll notice two or three blood-red patches on the tip of the whale’s snout (the rostrum). These are tubercles that have been rubbed raw by butting heads with the other males in the competition pod. This is about as “bloody” as the confrontations in an energetic comp-pod get; the fighting is NEVER “to the death.”

This whale did a brief "spy-hop" to reconnoiter the other members of his competition pod. In doing so, he obligingly displayed the ventral pleats (long folds of loose skin that can expand like the bellows of an accordion) of his lower jaw, as well as the prominent bulge of his right eye

This whale did a brief “spy-hop” to reconnoiter the other members of his competition pod. In doing so, he obligingly displayed the ventral pleats (long folds of loose skin that can expand like the bellows of an accordion) of his lower jaw, as well as the prominent bulge of his right eye. (Click on image to see a larger version.)

 

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