Crazy Competition Pod

One thing you never see in Competition pods is breaching. If you’re fighting for a dominant spot, jumping out of the water is not going to help you. You also never see pec slapping, unless it’s the female calling out for more males to join the competition. You certainly wouldn’t see two animals doing it. At least, that’s what you always hear on the whale watching boats.

Well, yesterday proved all of that wrong.

It was just the craziest comp pod we’ve ever seen. As if all the whales in it were training for the whale olympics. Why was it so incredible?

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Kauai residents witness humpback whale birth

LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) — Kauai residents were surprised to witness a humpback whale giving birth at Whalers Cove in Poipu over the weekend.

A Whalers Cove Resort pool technician on Saturday saw the whale give birth while an adult whale paced back and forth protecting the newborn. The mother whale gently pushed the newborn up as if to show the baby to the world.

Whalers Cove general manager Marianne Martin told The Garden Island newspaper the whale was so large that onlookers wondered how she could turn around inside the small cove.

The whales stayed inside the cove and surrounding area for a couple hours.

About 12,000 humpback whales migrate to Hawaii waters to breed and calve every winter after spending the summer feeding in northern waters.

A Calf Nursing (not the whales mentioned in this article)

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Stupid Photographer Tricks

If you’re going to hang over the side of a boat to do underwater photography, it helps to have a leash/lanyard attached to the housing/camera. One might ask, with good reason, why you would hang over the side of the boat in the first place. If you’re trying to photograph Humpback whales in Hawaii, you’re not allowed to get in the water with them. Hawaii is a national sanctuary for the whales and as they’re endangered species there can be some pretty hefty fines for getting in the water with them. So you go out on Zodiac/raft boats, let the whales swim up to the boat, and put the camera in the water. Hopefully, you are holding onto the camera while you are doing this. (If you are, you can get some nice shots like the one below)

However, if you are like me and get excited when you see a Humpback whale 10 feet away from the boat, you might let your camera slip out of your hand. At which point you will watch your Canon T2i and Ikelite housing start slowly sinking. It’s like watching a big bag of money go down to Davey Jones locker. Not good. For a split second I considered the fact that we were in a whale sanctuary and I might be fined if I dove in after the camera and underwater housing. After the .25 of a second was up, I dove in and grabbed the camera. Luckily, I don’t think anyone other than Mr. Humpback Whale (and 18 other passengers) saw anything and their were no repercussions. I immediately got back on the boat anyways, so it’s not like I was hanging out having a photo session with the whale.

The moral of the story: Sometimes a $10 lanyard can save you a lot of camera equipment!  (Feel free to post your own stupid photographer tricks in the comment section)

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Teaching a Calf How to be a Humpback Whale

One of the more interesting things you’ll see whale watching is when a Mom gives a baby whale a lesson on how to be a Humpback whale. Usually, Mom will display a behavior (a breach, tail throw, etc) once, maybe twice and then the calf will pick up on it and start doing it over and over. For whale photography, the babies are great because of this repetitive behavior. However, it’s rare you’ll see Mom also be repetitive. And it’s incredibly rare to see both of them doing it at the same time. However, that’s what we had yesterday.

It was quite impressive. Humpback Whale School was definitely in session and Mom was putting on quite a display for the baby… breaching, pec slapping, tail throwing, tail slapping… all repetitively until the baby caught on. I’ve never seen such an obvious and extended example of Mom teaching a calf.

Speaking of mom and calves…

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What Makes a Good Whale Photograph?

Well, more exactly, what does a photographer that goes out on a whale watch every day for three months consider a good photograph?

That’s a pretty good whale photo!

But why?

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Whale watching underwater! Beautiful footage of a Mom and Baby.

The interesting thing about whale watching is that you spend a lot of time waiting for the whales to come to the surface. Since they only spend about 5-10% of their time on the surface you miss a lot of what the whales are doing below the water surface (where, for some odd reason, they seem to spend most of their time).

One of my goals this season is to capture video footage of the Humpback whales underwater. To give myself, and all of you, some idea of what it’s like to whale watch in their environment, instead of waiting for them to come to our environment. My first attempt at this (seriously) yielded some great footage.

Humpback Mom and Baby

You can see the baby swimming around Mom, just like a kid would be running all over the place, and Mom is just hanging out. When the calves are newborn the mother will put the calf on the top of her head. Calves can’t really swim when they’re born so this allows Mom to raise the calf to the surface letting it breathe. It also lets her easily keep an eye on the newborn.

You would imagine that since this is where the calf spends most of it’s first week of life, that it becomes something of a safe spot for the baby whale as it ventures further away. You can sort of see this in the video. The calf swims around for awhile but then comes back to hovering right above Mom’s head, before swimming off again. Not being a researcher I’m speculating a bit based on the behavior here, but it would seem to make sense.

Anyways, enjoy the footage of Mom and child spending some quality time together! ;-)

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Welcome to the Whale Watching Blog!

It’s always exciting to launch a new web site. Especially one that focuses on something you’re really passionate about… which in this case is humpback whales!

Celebrating the launch of ExploringMaui.com

Our goal with ExploringMaui.com is to offer up resources to help folks that are going whale watching get the most out of their experience. We also want to educate people about the different experiences available. What you’re going to see and do in Alaska is definitely different than what you’ll want to do in Mexico or Maui, which is different again from seeing the whales in California.

One part of that experience is photographing them or taking video. While we’d love to sell you one of our archival prints of these beautiful cetaceans, we also want to help you capture your own memories. So there’s going to be a lot of content that tells you how to do that. Some of it is paid, but there’ll be a lot of free stuff, too.

But our real goal is to help you get closer to the whales and experience how amazing they are. Being a few feet away from a 50 ton, 50 foot animal in the wild is absolutely unbelievable. We hope you’ll make use of this site to experience that for yourself!

Check out this video to get a taste of it!

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