Little Known Facts about Humpback Whales

Whale season is here and our boats have been getting mugged! Whale mugging is when a whale approaches a vessel within the regulated proximity of 100 yards, and the vessel cannot power up until the whale moves on. For more details on safe viewing standards visit: http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov/ http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/dolphinsmart/welcome.html Follow Us: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/trilogyexcu...

Now that we are fully into humpback whale season here on Maui (yes they are still here!) the Trilogy crew have been hard at work during our daily whale watches. The crew love to share their knowledge about these gentle giants but also like to give the guests time to watch and be in awe of the humpbacks. During whale watches I find myself reciting the same facts to the guests. The most common ones like: a calf weighs 1 ton when born, humpbacks are distributed world wide, the average life span is 40-80 years . . .and so on. Often amongst the excitement of actually seeing the whale, time runs out and the really cool facts about these amazing creatures go untold. So here are some of my favorite little known facts about humpback whales.

Doubl3 Breach RS
Doubl3 Breach RS

Photo courtesy of Trilogy Excursions

Did you know . . .

  • They have hair. Yup, humpback whales are marine mammals possessing all of the traits of a mammal but obtaining their food source from the ocean. But humpback whales don’t look hairy, so where is their hair? Hair follicles are found around the jaw line and chin similar to whiskers on terrestrial animals. Also, on the top of the head and around the blow hole. The ‘bumps’ you see around the head of a humpback whale are called tubercles and they contain the hair follicles.
Blowholes RS
Blowholes RS

Photo courtesy of Trilogy Excursions

  • The scientific name is Mageptera novaeangliae. Meaning big winged New Englander. Big winged refers to their long pectoral fins, which extend about 15 ft or 1/3rd of their body length. And New Englander because some of the first scientific sightings were seen off of New England. Their common name, humpback, arose from how they arch their back when diving.
  • Only male humpback whales sing. During the winter months here on Maui it is common to put your head underwater and actually hear the whale’s song. All of the male humpback whales in Maui sing the same ever-changing song. However, this song is different from other sub populations of humpbacks.
  • We still don’t know why humpbacks sing. This is one of the biggest mysteries of the ocean today. Check out a whale song video from Hawaiian Paddle Sports:

[embed]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9I7BA149Zv8[/embed]

Video Credit: Hawaiian Paddle Sports LLC.

  • An actual birth has never been seen or documented first hand. We only know humpbacks give birth in our warm Maui waters because of confirmed sightings of newborn whales.
TrilogyWhale_4x6
TrilogyWhale_4x6

Photo Courtesy of Trilogy Excursions

  • Humpback whale population numbers are increasing. Ever since the end of whaling in the 1966 humpback whale numbers have been steadily rising. However the North Pacific sub population (our whales here in Maui) is still listed at ‘threatened’. Scientists are currently debating taking this sub population off the ‘threatened’ list.
  • Their tongue the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. The entire mouth takes up a 1/3rd of their body however, the throat opening is only the size of a grapefruit. Fitting for a creature that eats large amounts of a tiny sized food source.
  • Mom’s milk consists of 40% fat. The milk we drink is only 2%. Calves drink up to 100 gallons a day in order to be strong enough to make the 2,700+ mile migration back the feeding grounds in Alaska.
IMG_1140
IMG_1140

Photo Courtesy of Trilogy Excursions

  • Recently, humpbacks off the coast of Maui have been spotted "Tail-Sailing". Check out the rare footage caught by NOAA unmanned technologies center. "We're not entirely sure why the whales do this," said Ed Lyman, resource protection specialist for Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. "But we think this could be another way for them to rest, nurse, or just try to stay cool. More observations will be needed to confirm this theory." Read the full story on the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary website.

[embed]http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov/imagery/videos/humpback-whale-sailing-720p.mp4[/embed]

Video Credit: NOAA unmanned technologies center

For more facts about whales, check out NOAA’s link here.

By Conservation and Education Coordinator Magen Schifiliti