Whalewatching 2016: Part 5

7 Feb

surprise breach - frame 2

16 January Cruise

There was a great deal of surface activity (typical for mid-January) during this morning’s cruise,   most of which consisted of quieter, less-interesting behaviors like blowing, resting at the surface, and male and female pairs aimlessly wandering about the bay. However, two individual whales did put on two separate performances for the passengers and crew of the Voyager.

Almost immediately after Voyager cleared the Ma’alaea Harbor breakwater, an immature adult Humpback unexpectedly breached just off the port bow (see the “Super-Breach Surprise in Ma’alaea Bay” blog post).

breach sequence-16Jan2016

The first indication that a whale was breaching less than 100 yards from Voyager was the collective shout of surprise of the passengers and crew. By the time I shot the first of my ten frames of this jump, the whale was almost halfway into its breach. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

Every camera on board (including mine) had been trained on a lazy pair of whales “logging” about 200 yards off our 3 o’clock position when the whale jumped in front of the boat, but I was able to wheel around in time to catch the whale about half way through the arch of its trajectory. Fortunately the camera was set on “Burst” mode and all I had to do was pull a focus and blast away.

breach sequence - frame 2 -16Jan2016

At this point in the breach, the whale’s angle of trajectory is nearly flat and almost all of its 40,000 tons is out of the water. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)


breach sequence - frame 3 - 16Jan2016

I really like this shot because I caught the whale just as its entire body broke the surface. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)


I got off 10 quick frames before the young acrobat executed an immense splashdown that filled most of my viewfinder’s field with an immense cloud of white froth and spray.

breach sequence - frame 5 - 16Jan2016

As the whale’s body slammed into the surface, it was completely enveloped in a white cloud of spray and froth half again as large as itself. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)


After this unlooked-for spectacle, the next half hour of the cruise was a bit of a letdown. I spotted a four-whale competition pod more than a half-mile distant and was marginally successful pulling a good enough focus to get the following shot.

distant competition pod-16Jan2016

At more than a half-mile out, I had to do a good bit of Photoshop fiddling to pull this one out of the voggy haze. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)


A bit later, a solitary whale (perhaps a yearling newly weaned from its mother) made a brief appearance, coming to within 100 yards of the boat, pausing just long enough for me to get these two shots of its barnacle-encrusted flukes.

barnacles on flukes-16Jan2016

A small colony of barnacles clings precariously to the tip of a young adult whale’s left fluke. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)


flukes up w/barnacles-16Jan2016

As this whale performed a “goodbye” flukes-up dive, the two colonies of barnacles on the tips of its flukes were visible, clearly hanging on for dear life. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)


Just as Voyager’s captain began pulling away from this whale, thinking that the show was over, the whale resurfaced and shortly commenced one of the longest sessions of repetitive fluke-slapping I’ve ever seen. I shot more than 250 frames before I let off on the shutter release for fear of getting too many of the same shots. I’ve included a couple of examples (below) of this noisy 20-minute tirade.

fluke slap-16Jan2016

This whale continued its fluke-slapping behavior for nearly 20 minutes. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)


fluke slap-16Jan2016

Showing off for the tourists: This young adult whale lifts a demure tip of the pectoral fin while slamming its flukes sharply on the surface. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)


flukes slap-16Jan2016

Eventually, the prolonged fluke-slapping of this immature adult began to draw a crowd of onlookers. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)




One Response to “Whalewatching 2016: Part 5”

  1. Liz Croonquist at 9:30 AM #

    Fabulous, shots – especially the second one! How thrilling to see and to catch this shot on your camera!! My heart would have skipped a few beats, I’m sure! Thanks for posting!!

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