Captain Dan's Blog

Archive for January, 2012

January 29th, 2012

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

The warm calm water of the Hawaiian Islands provides a pleasant sanctuary for the impressive yet gentle humpback whale of the North Pacific. Numbers of humpback whales in Hawaiian waters continue to increase. There have been a few days recently, where in all directions, we see the splashes and spouts of these seasonal visitors…the splashing behavior is thought to be some sort a display, perhaps an issue of inter-whale proximity of sorts?
Generally, the more whales that continue to arrive on the breeding grounds, the more we are likely to witness this aerial activity. A breach is where a whale completely launches its massive body in to the air, clearing the surface of the water, and crashes back down again, creating a thundering crash. We have seen numerous breaches this week with some spectacular double breaches to boot! This is a sight one is not likely to soon forget.
Pods of bottlenose dolphins have also been prolific, frequently engaging with the humpback whales, swimming alongside or riding their nose, and even jumping over their large bodies. Dolphins can find whales with their sonar, unlike humpback whales that rely more on their eyesight and keen hearing.
This week has also provided some unusual sightings of hammerhead sharks that tend to congregate around the islands during varying times of the year and can be seen sunbathing at the surface of the water, with their large dorsal fins piercing the surface of the water. Hammerhead sharks are not considered to be aggressive, but they are certainly impressive in their unique appearance.
We never know what we might encounter on any given tour. The adventure is yours and begins when you step aboard Dan McSweeney’s Whale Watch. Call our reservations line to book your trip now..808-322-0028.

January 7, 2012

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

Trips this week have been truly great with many humpback sightings. One pair of humpback whales surprisingly surfaced right under the boat, only a few feet away. Taking our breath away, these Goliaths proceeded to raise their giant tails in to the air making for the perfect photographic opportunity. On most tours, the spinner dolphins have been making an appearance, by the hundreds in the near shore waters, spiraling 7 revolutions in less than a single second mid-air. On more than one tour, we had large groups of bottlenose dolphin, also known as Flipper, for those of you familiar with the television series, mixed in with humpback whales. These inter-species interactions are always a delight to witness.

One tour even included a large group of manta rays milling at the surface. They are quite the spectacle, with average wingspans of 8 – 12 feet, resembling an underwater bird. Some manta rays on the island have been measured in at more than 19 feet from tip to tip. Similar to humpback whales, manta rays are easily identified by the unique pigmentation patterns that appear on the underside of their large wings. In the case of humpback whales, these patterns appear on the underside of their massive tails.

During the first week of January, we had quite an unusual encounter with a pair of humpback whales that we re-sighted each day for five consecutive days. During one encounter, they spontaneously began jumping out of the water, a behavior called breaching. Much to the amazement of everyone aboard, this went down in history. These encounters were documented and recorded in the research log. The tails were easily identifiable so we will easily recognize this pair should we come across them again in the season.

Humpback whales and spinner dolphins seem to be the star players, typical for this time of year. They never fail to surprise us with their playful curiosity. Book your tour today and witness nature at its best with the most informed and experienced whale watching crew on the Kona Coast …..

January 1, 2012

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

It’s a wonderful start of the 2011/2012 season for us at Dan McSweeney’s Whale Watch. The annual migratory return of humpback whales back to these warm Hawaiian waters is well under way. Since early December, sightings of our seasonal visitors have been consistent off the Big Island. Large bulls and adolescent individuals are typically the first to arrive and this year has been no exception. Furthermore, we have been graced with a lot of pairs of humpback whales over recent days.

On one whale watch excursion, we were surprised with some other rare visitors, the Sei Whales. We encountered a large group of these impressive whales after we received a report of a group of humpback whales offshore in deep water. Heeding the tip, because deep water sightings often turn out to be our year-round resident sperm whales, we took a spin to the deep water, nearly 12 miles off shore of the Kona Coast. To our surprise, the whales we encountered were neither the giant sperm whales nor the seasonal humpback whales but a rarely seen species in Hawaii called Sei whales The pod numbered approximately 15-20 individuals and passengers and crew alike were enamored by their presence. Their sleek bodies, unique shape and exotic coloration quickly gave them away as something unique. Sei whale sightings are rare in the Hawaiian Islands. Animals range in size but may reach more than 65 feet in length and weigh even more than the seasonal humpback whales at 100,000 pounds. The group was quite curious, showing no hesitation to surface right alongside the boat. A real treat for everyone aboard; this was a profound experience for guests and captain and crew. The adventure was topped off with some dolphins on the way back to shore leaving everyone with a smile in their heart.

Other tours have included groups of pilot whales and the small pygmy killer whales, sighted not far from a single humpback whale traveling near the shallow water shelf. What the small pygmy killer whales lack in size, they make up for in attitude. These are formidable predators and are often known to attack other marine mammals, especially the dolphins as they wait for them to escape the nets of tuna fisheries. Always a delight to encounter, pygmy killer whales are easily recognized by their round bulbous heads and their white underbellies.

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. Dan’s 40 years of experience sets his trips apart from others. Book your trip today and see what Mother Nature and Dan have in store for you…808-322-0028.

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