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Captain’s Log February 09, 2014

Monday, February 10th, 2014

We have reached mid-season here at Captain Dan McSweeney’s Whale Watching Adventures, and what a great season it is! The months of February and March are wrought with Humpbacks frolicking in the stunningly beautiful blue Pacific waters. On each trip we make, we find increasing numbers of mothers and new-born calves enjoying the water, and since humpback whales are so very curious, they sometimes come near the boat to enjoy us as we enjoy them. In addition, sometimes single males will park themselves about 150’ or so under water and commence to singing their loud song. Unique in sound, this song has been sung throughout the centuries, but each winter comes with a new set of tones. When a single male whale is located we sometimes are able to drop a microphone into the water and listen to his song. Though the song is clear to our ears, it is still somewhat of a mystery as to exactly how the whale produces the mysterious sounds. Somehow that song comes from the inside of the giant head of the whale, and research will one day tell us exactly how he does it….and for what reason? However, until research completes its task, we simply enjoy the whale song until the big male decides it’s time to swim away or we head away in total wonderment.

Amid the perfect sunshine and warm temperatures, the whales have been putting on quite a show on and above the water’s surface. The increasing numbers of whales that reside in the clear waters during these months causes many displays that include giant fins waving out of the water as the whale lies on its side, great spouts of water shooting out of the whale’s blowhole as it swims by and thrillingly, breaches that sometimes bring whales out of the water completely. When the whales are air-born, passengers on our adventures can see that they really are as big as a school bus!

In addition to the mighty humpback whale, we sometimes see endangered False Killer whales as they quickly pursue their prey, Hawaiian Pilot whales, Spinner dolphins jumping and spiraling as much as seven times before submersing and periodically we have found ourselves enjoying watching giant manta rays swim around us with wingspans that can reach 12’ or more! Captain Dan and the crew invite you to come to the Kona coast and board the whale watching vessel, get comfortable, enjoy sights and snacks, drinks, opportunities for fabulous photographs and memories and personalized teaching as you are amazed at discovering the astounding and wonderful world of the Pacific Island whales! To book an adventure, call us direct at 808-322-0028. We look forward to guiding you into a day of wonder!

Captain’s Log January 14th, 2014

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

This winter has kicked off another great start to the amazing annual
humpback whale migration. Literally, hundreds of animals have arrived in
Hawaii, their warm water breeding grounds. At Dan McSweeney’s Whale
Watching Adventures, we have already seen several humpback mothers and their young calves. It is always a delight to witness the youngsters as they
first learn to jump or breach. They are often playful and have a natural
curiosity for things floating in the water around them, namely boats.
Every so often one little youngster might swim right up along side to try to
get a closer look. With each passing day, more moms and calves will
continue to arrive in the warm waters around the Big Island. While we have
been encouraged with the numbers of moms and calves already here on the
breeding grounds, their numbers will actually peak during the months of
February and March. Fortunately, with the enjoyment of federal protection,
the humpback population continues to rebound, climbing by nearly 7%

This has been an amazing introduction into winter as not only
have we been pleased by the notorious humpback whales but we have seen
dozens of false killer whales as well. These are tropical cousins to the
black and white killer whale most of us know of as ‘Free Willy’ from the
movie. The false killer whale is solid black in color and gains in name
because it shares many of the same behavior traits with the killer whale
Orca. Although they have the dubious distinction of being Hawaii’s newest listed endangered marine mammal they are among the favorites of whale watchers who often get to view them in pursuit of fast moving prey. Equally, we have been treated to the presence of dwarf sperm whales as of late. These medium-sized whales resemble their larger relatives, the giant sperm whale of Moby Dick fame, but the dwarf sperm whales are closer to the size of a large dolphin as their name implies.

Speaking of dolphins, virtually every tour has the privilege of
viewing these marine mammals frolicking along the shoreline. The spinner
dolphin is probably the most well known in the islands, made famous for its
spinning behavior where it launches itself from the water and spirals as
many as seven revolutions before crashing back down on the surface of the
water again. Definitely an all time favorite, spinners are seen almost
daily along the Kona Coast. Each tour is different as we never know what
Mother Nature might gift with at any time. To indulge in your whale watch
adventure, book today by calling us direct at 808-322-0028. We look forward
to seeing you aboard.

Captain’s Log December 8, 2013

Monday, December 9th, 2013

It’s that time of year again when a special visitor arrives near shore throughout the entire Hawaiian Island chain. The seasonal humpback whales visit the warm waters of Hawaii annually, escaping the harsh winter in the Northern hemisphere making the 3000 mile trek migration to warmer climes in as little as 30 days. It’s thought they come to Hawaii to socialize, mate, and rear their young. While there are here on the their breeding grounds, they virtually fast and eat little food. An adult humpback may lose as much as 20% of its body weight or as much as 15,000 pounds. Staying until late Spring, they return to the icy cold nutrient rich waters of Alaska and other areas of the PNW where they do their feeding during the summer months, gorging on as much as 1200 pounds of food per day. 

Humpback whales, while still on the endangered species list, have done quite well for themselves since federal protection was put in place in the mid-1960s. Each year their population increases by nearly 7% with an estimated 20,000 in the eastern North Pacific.

For us at Dan McSweeney’s Whale Watching Adventures, this is always a special time of year when we welcome the return of our seasonal visitors. Captain Dan has more than four decades of experience with these whales, many he recognizes on sight. Each year we await the return of these goliaths and often times with newborn calves. Adults might weigh as much as forty tons while the youngsters are born at a mere ton and are nearly 11 feet in length. Gaining weight rapidly, by the time the youngster is weaned at one year old, it can be difficult to tell apart from other juveniles whales.

 Through out the years, Captain Dan has been involved in numerous research projects throughout the Pacific from Hawaii, to Alaska, to waters surrounding British Columbia and even Washington.

In the islands, the last few months have yielded a number of sightings of whale species including not only the early arriving humpback whales but some of our year round resident whales; in particular the Hawaiian Pilot whales, newly-designated endangered False killer whales, beaked whales and even the seldom seen Orca “killer” whale. Of course, closer inshore, we often come across the infamous spinner dolphins as well who often are engaged in their fun aerial antics.

Captain Dan begins running regular morning tours on Thursday, December 12th this year. Each trip yields unexpected surprises as we never know exactly what we will see. Captain’s Dan extends to all his guests the guarantee that you will see a whale or come again for free. To top it off, when you book direct with Captain Dan, you receive a complimentary picture of a whale he personally took on one of his whale research projects. Book your adventure early at 808-322-0028 or toll free at 888-942-5376

Captain’s Log March 6, 2013

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

For whale watchers across the Big Island, March offers all of the delights that might be expected with the peak of the season. Humpback whales continue to abound everywhere up and down the Kona Coast. This is a particularly good year on the Hawaiian breeding grounds. With the presence of a lot of mother humpback whales and their calves, there is evidence of the growing population of humpback whales, estimated to be increasing by 7% with every passing year. The calves stay with their moms for 12 – 18 months before they venture out from the protective wings of the mother whale. Nursing on as much as 50 – 100 gallons of milk per day, the youngsters grow rapidly during the first year of life.

The conditions for whale watching off the Kona Coast are ideal this time of year. Kona is on the leeward side of the island and the name literally means calm. The waters off the Kona Coast are protected by the extremely tall volcanoes that rise from the sea. This makes for ideal water conditions compared to other locations on the island and also contributes to the beautiful sunny skies. Winter temperatures are mild, hovering in the 80s, making it the ideal winter time to escape from snow storms on the mainland U.S. Because of the very tall volcanoes that make up the island, Kona is also graced with extraordinarily deep water very close to shore which draws in a whole host of other marine mammals besides the seasonal humpback that prefers the shallow water coastline. This month has already brought sightings of Hawaiian pilot whales and the false killer whales (dubious distinction of being Hawaii’s newest endangered cetacean species) , two of the twelve exotic species that make their home in Kona all year round. Both species are typically found in larger groups. Pilot whales, in particular, are often with related individuals which makes sightings very intriguing for guests as Captain Dan generally knows the individuals, being that he has studied pilot whales off these waters for several decades. The false killer whales are also fun to encounter as they are the ultimate predator, next to their cousin, the black and white killer whale, which often makes for exciting encounters as on lookers often witness them in action chasing down fast moving prey. In the deeper water have also been huge schools of the spotted dolphins which can launch their bodies 20 -30 feet in to the air in a spectacular display.

Closer to the shoreline are large congregations of spinner dolphins that come to the shallows during the daylight hours after foraging at sea through the night. The spinners are also known for their aerial antics and can complete 7 revolutions mid air before crashing back down again. The spinners are sometimes seen socializing with their seasonal humpback whale friends. Dwarfed by the giant whales, the spinner dolphins weigh in at only 100 pounds when full grown. Their cousins, the bottlenose dolphins, on the other hand might be 600 – 800 pounds when full grown and they too like to hang with the humpback whales from time to time. When it comes to wild life off the Big Island, there is no shortage of it and whatever it is we are graced to encounter, it is always sure to entertain. Each day brings with it a new wild life surprise.

See what your trip may have in store for you. Book your whale watch expedition today with Dan McSweeney’s Whale Watching Adventures, the most experienced operation on the Big Island. Spend quality time with whales, basking in the warm Kona sunshine, enjoy true whale tales told only so well by an Irishman wildlife photographer and researcher such as Captain Dan McSweeney. Book direct and receive a complimentary 8 x 10 color picture of a whale taken by none other than your own Captain Dan. Reserve your space today at 1-808-322-0028.

On behalf of the entire crew, we look forward to seeing you on the Kona Coast of the Big Island.

Aloha and Mahalo, Captain Dan

Captain’s Log

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

February 22, 2013

If you have not been to the Big Island of Hawaii during the winter months, you have not experienced the best the Big Island has to offer. This is the peak of the tourist season. Why you might ask? For one, perfect winter weather – for those wanting to escape harsh winters elsewhere Hawaii provides a nice reprieve with tropical temperatures rarely dipping below a daytime temperature of 80 degrees; second, these months represent the peak of the annual humpback whale migration. Even from the shoreline, the spouts and splashes from these goliath creatures can be seen. What way to get closer to the giants than to go on a whale watch adventure with Captain Dan McSweeney.

Running tours off the Big Island for more than four decades and actively involved in research for much of that time, no one supersedes Captain’s Dan’s know-how and knowledge. Dan’s decades of experience not only allows him to more easily locate whales, to decide which whales are the better prospects to spend time with, but once with them, no one tracks whales better and anticipates for you their fascinating behaviors than Captain Dan. His comprehensive understanding of how whales use their environment combined with anecdotal stories of his personal time with whales and his humble appreciation and passion for preserving their habitat all contributes to a superior whale watching experience for you.

In Hawaii, there is no more exciting time for tourists and residents alike than the months of February and March. Whales are not only seen, but also heard as they bellow out their exotic winter songs, sung mostly on the winter breeding grounds. Recent tours have included large groups of mating whales where bystanders often witness males challenging each other for access to the female whale. Other tours have included precious encounters with mother and calf pairs as passengers might witness the youngster attempt aerial antics for what may be the first time. No matter how you slice it, these months are about excitement when it comes to whales, not to mention, the great shows by the infamous spinner dolphins, most known to jump, spin, and splash and seen in groups as large as 200 at any given time.

Reserve your space today for a true adventure with a true whale researcher. We look forward to seeing you on one of our whale watch adventure tours, running daily through the peak of the season.


December 21, 2012

Friday, December 21st, 2012

For us at Dan McSweeney’s Whale Watch, it’s a wonderful start of the annual humpback whale migration. Every year the humpback whales leave the icy cold water feeding grounds of Southeast Alaska to make a 3,000 mile migration to their warm water breeding grounds in Hawaii. While the bulk of the whales won’t arrive until mid January, the sightings of humpbacks are more consistent with every passing day.

While it is a bit early for newborn calves, we have already seen a few different mother and calf pairs. They are especially fun to spend time with. The calf does not hold its breath as long as its mother so it spends more time at the surface. Often, we might witness the calf jumping for the first time, a behavior called ‘breaching’, or sometimes we might see it lying on its back, flapping its long flippers. Sometimes the calves get curious of objects floating at the surface and pay a close visit. No matter what it is up to, a humpback calf is always a delight to encounter.

Besides seasonal humpback whales, our recent excursions have included encounters with giant sperm whales of Moby Dick fame. Found offshore in the deep water, this giant lives in the Hawaiian Islands throughout the entire year. Because a sperm whale is capable of staying underwater more than an hour on a single breath of air and lives in the deep water, the sperm whale receives very little attention compared to the seasonal humpback that prefers the shallow water where they are obvious to visitors and residents alike. Feeding on fish and giant squid, the sperm whale can dive one or two miles beneath the ocean’s surface. Its unique body shape and the angle of its spout set it apart from all other whales in the ocean. Easy to identify, even from a distance, the spout of the giant sperm whale angles at about 45 degrees from the surface of the water while the spout of a humpback whale will rise vertically. The year-round pilot whales have also made recent appearances. Found in large groups of essentially related individuals, pilot whales are always a pleasure to come across. Much smaller than their larger relatives, what the pilot whale lacks in size, it more than makes up for in number. Pilot whales are often found in large groups numbering 15 – 30 individuals whereas the seasonal humpback whale is often found by itself.

Dolphins are often found close to the shoreline during the daylight hours. The most common variety in Hawaii is the notorious spinner dolphin, always fun to watch, most renowned for its aerial antics.

Each trip differs from the next as we never know exactly what we will see or where, but one thing is for sure, we will see whales. Our guarantee is that if you don’t see whales the first time out, you come out again, “on us”. Book your trip online at or call 808 322-0028 today and see what Mother Nature might have in store for you

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Captain’s Log
November 12 , 2012

Captain Dan is glad to be back from a summer hiatus and autumn in the Pacific Northwest. As you might imagine, it is always a pleasure to be back on the calm waters of the Kona Coast. We are looking forward to the annual migration of humpback whales with an unusual sighting of a solitary humpback off the Big Islands Kona Coast in late August! Typically, humpback whales will trickle in from the early fall until they arrive in more reliable numbers in late December and January. The peak of the migration to the breeding grounds are the months of
February and March.

While we are anticipating their arrival in greater numbers, several other whales have been sighted recently off the Big Island. There are a dozen other species that live around the Hawaiian Islands throughout the entire
year, including Hawaiian pilot whales, giant sperm whales of Moby Dick Fame, and the notorious false killer whales, not to mention the playful spinner and bottlenose dolphins.

Many visitors escape to the islands during the winter to seek the idyllic weather of Hawaii, a reprieve from rain and snow, arriving just in time to welcome the arrival of the humpback whales that make themselves known to those on the coastline. Humpback whales are the only whales in Hawaii that are very comfortable in relatively shallow water.

Captain Dan’s Whale Watch Adventure tours will resume in early December on a limited schedule. Captain and crew are looking forward to a busy winter and to the many marvelous encounters that no doubt will ensue. Please contact
our office at 808.322.0028 to book early for that busy time of year. We look forward to seeing you on the beautiful Kona coast of the Big Island of Hawai’i.


Captain Dan and crew

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

AUGUST 29, 2012

It continues to be a productive summer of whale research for Captain Dan McSweeney of the Wild Whale Research Foundation. The most recent project in August 2012 was a continuation of projects conducted each August over the past three years primarily looking for the Hawaiian false killer whales for genetic and photo-identification research as well as satellite tagging. The August project was also a continuation of a similar project which began last October to obtain information on diving and acoustic behavior of false killer whales and melon-headed whales through the deployment of suction-cup attached digital acoustic tags (D-tags). The 17 day effort with Cascadia Research Collective of Olympia, Washington and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution of Hawaii yielded prolific data, biopsy samples, and photographs to contribute to ongoing studies of genetics, toxicology, residency patterns, social organization, population estimates and more.

For more information on the project and elaborate photographs including rare looks at melonheaded whales, rough toothed dolphins, pygmy killer whales, false killers, rissos dolphins, whale sharks, squids, sea birds and more, visit

For those eager whale watching enthusiasts, Captain Dan McSweeney’s Whale Watching Adventures offers tours which will resume off the sunny Kona Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii in the late autumn. Each trip provides guests with an authentic experience with Captain Dan who drives and narrates every trip. Visit our website at and book your trip on-line early as space is limited.

April 5th, 2012

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Spring is an ideal time of year for visiting the islands with many of the native flowers in full bloom. Aboard the whale watch, it is a great time for us to be reunited with our resident whales as many of the humpbacks begin their long journey back to Alaska. While some humpbacks are still being seen around the islands, it is our resident whales who have been stealing the show. This week we have seen large congregations of the Hawaiian pilot whale. Males tend to congregate with each other as do the females and their small calves. There is nothing cuter than a baby pilot whale with its mum. Pilot whales have fixed facial muscles so they always look like they are smiling. They are guaranteed to bring a smile to both crew and guests alike. One of the more renowned behaviors of the pilot whales is called spy hopping where they rise vertically out of the water, bobbing up well above their dorsal fins and appear to be looking around. It may their form of people watching. Nonetheless, it always brings lots of laughter to bystanders who are lucky enough to see it.
Pygmy killer whales have been offshore this week as well. A relatively small whale found in groups numbering from half a dozen to dozens. These rare critters are always a delight to come across.
The gregarious spinner dolphins often make an appearance, often involved in their entertaining aerial antics where they jump and spin out of the water, completing seven revolutions as the leap from the sea.
Each trip is an adventure aboard Dan McSweeney’s Whale Watch. Book your tour today at 1-808-322-0028.

March 15th-22nd, 2012

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

March 15, 2012

This season of the year is a good time to see mother and calf humpback pairs. While much of the herd has begun its migration back to the Pacific Northwest, the mothers and calves seem to remain behind the longest.
The calves may need to do a fair bit of nursing before they are strong enough to make the long, 2,500-mile journey north. Day in and day out we have been witnessing these pairs as the young calf often circles at the surface above the mother humpback whale and then dives down to nurse. The calf feeds on approx 50 – 100 gallons of milk per day and grows rapidly during the first year of its life. Along with the mother humpback and calf pairs is often another adult whale, called an escort whale. For many years, the escort whale was thought to be a female, essentially an auntie charged with helping to care for the youngster, but years of research and underwater gender identification has shown these are actually male whales that sometimes trail the mother and calf around. Out in the deep water as of late, we have had several encounters with the impressive and odd-looking hammerhead sharks. They don’t seem to bother the whales but are often seen in close proximity and are often found in pairs. Closer to shore, the spinner dolphins that remain in Hawaii throughout the entire year have been putting on a quite a show. Huge congregations of them have been seen, usually on the latter part of the tour as we cruise the shallows. Manta rays, sea turtles and a number of other forms of marine life are often seen along the shore. Every day is another unique experience that always seems to surprise even the most experienced of whale watchers. Reservations are required for your adventure. Book it today with Captain Dan’s Whale Watching Adventures at 1-808-322-0028.

March 22, 2012

This week has yielded some epic tours. We have been lucky to witness mating groups of humpback whales that had no hesitation for putting in extremely close appearances right next to our boat. At one point, we were surrounded on every side by a giant goliath. Just sitting in idle, we watched as these mesmerizing creatures splashed around, put up their tails, and circled the boat. Watching the jaw drop on every passenger aboard is always a thrill for the crew. While these close encounters are rare, one never knows when and where they will happen. Equally spectacular have been more appearances of our resident false killer whales and their smaller cousins, the pygmy killer whales. There are more than a dozen varieties of whales that are found in Hawaii throughout the entire year. Every so often, they also pay a visit to the shallow shelf where the humpback whales tend to congregate. These interspecies groupings are always a bonus and fun to watch. Some of these encounters have included a variety of dolphins including spinner, spotted and bottlenose dolphins. These dolphin sightings are always a blast as they are often engaged in some kind of aerial antic, whether its launching their bodies clear of the water or jumping and spinning before splashing back down again.
No one knows why they might engage with the seasonal humpback whales, perhaps this is their idea of fun. Book your whale watch adventure today. Reservations are required. Call Captain Dan’s Whale Watching Adventures at 1-808-322-0028.

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