Whalewatching 2016: Part 10

27 Mar
nice flukes slap

A young adult Humpback whale really “cracks the whip” while performing a series of very loud and energetic fluke slaps. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

3 February Cruise

The whale behaviors seen during this cruise were more varied and a lot more energetic than what I shot in January.

The following series of photos of a single breach were shot at the maximum range (more than a half mile away) of my 300mm lens, but the good air quality (i.e., no vog) and calm seas allowed me to pull a good focus on the subject.

 

breach and blow

The breach began with a rocketing vertical lunge breaking the surface, the whale exhaling sharply through its blowholes. Keep in mind that from the time it broke the surface to the point when it plunged back into the sea took less than four seconds. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

breach with esposed pec fins

At this point in its breach both of the whale’s pectoral fins are out of the water.(Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

breach

The whale begins a vertical roll to its right, still exhaling and seawater streaming from it’s chin plate and pectoral fins. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

breach

The whale completes a nearly 180-degree corkscrewing spin, landing on its back. The water spurting from its mouth is probably the remainder off a mouthful it took into its buccal cavity to inflate its pleated lower jaw. Male Humpbacks often perform this “inflated head lunge” to impress other whales in the vicinity… or maybe just for fun. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

pec slap

Nice closeup shot of a “pec slap”; the whale (probably a female) had rolled onto its side, its belly facing the camera. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

twenty-foot blow

A solitary whale’s prodigious “blow” extends more than 15 feet above the surface.(Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

The next two shots are of a male in a small competition pod performing a violent head lunge, intended to intimidate the other males in the pod. In both images, the rows of tubercles (the numerous bumps on its upper jaw, or “rostrum”) are plainly visible. Each tubercle has a single hair follicle; blood vessels and nerve endings within the dermis (layer of skin cells that underlie the epidermis) enter the base of each follicle. The hair follicles may serve a sensory function like that of a cat’s whiskers. 

 

head lunge

Head lunge seen from the left of the whale’s head. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

head lunge

Head lunge shot from behind as the whale sped off in pursuit of the rest of the competition pod. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

kayakers & logging whales

A pair of kayakers happened upon a pair of whales logging at the surface; the exhaust stars of the Kealia Pond power station loom above the keawe trees growing along the shore. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

kayak and whale

As they pass the resting whales, the kayakers are careful to maintain a distance of at least 100 yards, the stand-off distance prescribed by law within the wildlife refuge that includes all of Ma’alaea Bay. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

flukeslap ventral view

As one whale in a small competition pod begins a flukes-up dive, another pod member violently slams its flukes on the surface, indicating agitation or aggression. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

 

I’ll end this blog post with a nice shot of a pec wave…

pec wave

Goodbye until the next post. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

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One Response to “Whalewatching 2016: Part 10”

  1. Liz Croonquist 28 March 2016 at 4:35 PM #

    My first impression looking at these shots was, “they’re having so much fun!” Fun to see these remarkable shots!

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