Winter has arrived on Maui and you know what that means (and yes, we do have a winter season...of sorts). The whales have come home! December 15 officially marks the first day of whale season, but the "winter birds" have been slowly showing up for the last month or so.
The predominant whales that come to Maui each year are the humpback whales, or Kohola. The majestic animals "summer" in Alaska and then an average of 10,000 whales follow the same migration patterns back to Hawaii every year. The whales travel over 3,500 miles in a 4-6 week time frame. Females come to give birth and to raise their calves in the relative predator free, warm waters of Hawaii, or to breed (which is why the males are here, insert joke).
The gestational period for a humpback whale is 11-12 months, so it is safe to say the calves born one summer were the calves bred the previous summer. The calves are roughly 2,000 pounds at birth and gain about 100 pounds a day from their mother's milk, which is 50% fat. Though many babies have been born in the waters off of Maui, there has never been a recorded live birth to date. Early in 2019, University of Hawaii marine mammal researchers got the closest they have been to witnessing (and thus recording) a live birth in over 25 years. Click here for the YouTube video.
One of the more phenomenal things to experience during whale season is hearing the male humpbacks sing. Each whale has his own unique song and wherever he left off singing before he started his journey back to Alaska, is where he'll pick up singing once he is back in Hawaiian waters. Scientists believe the songs are to attract females. If you are lucky, can hold your breath for a bit, and are snorkeling on Maui, you can hear the songs underwater. The songs can travel up to 12 miles underwater, but sound so much closer, almost as if you look over your shoulder a whale will be right there. It is an otherworldly sound, beautiful and mournful all at the same time.
And sometimes, sometimes you might even end up sharing a piece of their world with them for a brief period of time.
(Photo credit: Caitlyn Misler, video credit: Ryan Kirkham)
With Warm Aloha!