Our Season Ahead

March 10th, 2011

Touring with West Coast Aquatic Safaris is a feast for all your senses!

As Diana wraps up her time in Maui and begins to make her way back to Tofino, we must first take a moment to thank her for sharing all of her wonderful experiences and bringing everything she has learned back to provide the guests of West Coast Aquatic Safaris with a first class experience.

Migrating Naturalist: A Fond Farewell

March 7th, 2011

Over the past month and a half, I have shared many experiences and thoughts from my time with the humpback whales here on Maui. Some of my blogs recalled ecstatic and heart-pounding encounters, some mused on the endlessly inspiring quest for knowledge, and some emphasized an earnest hope for the future, what we may accomplish and uncover.

Migrating Naturalist: Aquatic Grace

March 3rd, 2011

The above image was taken under NOAA-Fisheries Permit #587-1767-01

I recently watched the new award-winning film Black Swan, a psychological thriller about the intense world of ballet. As someone who practiced ballet as a child, I have always admired the grace and elegant artwork of dance, and have appreciated the physical challenges of this activity. However, I have a much greater admiration of another type of dance that I was reminded of while watching Black Swan, and that is humpback ballet.

Migrating Naturalist: Underwater Adventures

March 2nd, 2011

My shot of a male bubble trailing from the mouth. Notice the bottlenose dolphin!

If I should die one day due to some tragic accident, I would want it to be from a whale. Of course, incidents of humpbacks making contact or even indirectly causing danger to a diver are few and far between, as the whales are so astonishingly aware of their surroundings. But I would die happy knowing that of all the mundane, horrible, or even laughable things that could cause death or danger to a human being, I went out by the hand of one of the most incredible creatures on the planet.

Migrating Naturalist: Mysterious Romance

February 28th, 2011

No one in the world has ever seen humpback whales mating. And this is not for lack of trying, as researchers have been striving to witness this key event since research began over 30 years ago. It is assumed that humpbacks mate when they are in Southern waters, around the same region that they give birth to calves. This fits in with their estimated gestation period of 11-12 months, and would parallel the mating seen from grey whales near the Baja peninsula.

Migrating Naturalist: Pseudorca

February 26th, 2011

Humpback flukes with orca rake scars are common, as the predators will preferentially attack calves. (The above image was taken under NOAA-Fisheries Permit #587-1767-01)

Most of you have probably heard of Killer Whales, also known as Orca, those charismatic black and white top predators of the sea. They are often a highly popular request from whale watching guests in Tofino, and if you’ve been out with West Coast Aquatic Safaris, you may have already had the chance to view some of the transient pods that will occasionally visit Clayoquot Sound. Orca are highly social animals, whose intelligence and skill in hunting is equalled by none. However, you may not have heard of pseudorca, their smaller, slender grey cousin, which are also known as false killer whales.

Migrating Naturalist: The Whale Wing-Man

February 24th, 2011

An extreme close-up whale chin! Look for the tiny hairs, and sea lice. (The above image was taken under NOAA-Fisheries Permit #587-1767-01)

A while back, I wrote an excitement-drenched blog about humpback whale mugging, and how amazing these encounters can be. I had mentioned that it is much more likely to see this fascinating behaviour from younger whales, and also from females. Today was one of those days that reminded us that no matter what trends you uncover, wildlife will never cease to surprise you.

Migrating Naturalist: The Endangered Islands

February 22nd, 2011

The Nene (or Hawaiian Goose) is Hawaii’s state bird. This early morning photo was taken in Haleakala National Park, a protected area.

When you visit the Hawaiian Islands, one of the first things you notice is the vibrant profusion of plant and animal life. Bright colours, enticing scents, and exotic species surround you, welcoming you to the tropics the moment you step off the plane. But despite this apparent abundance, you might be surprised to hear that Hawaii is actually the endangered species capital of the world. There are more extinct and endangered species per square mile than anywhere else on the planet. What’s almost worse is that there are also a huge number of species which are basically “living dead”, as they still exist in small numbers, but will almost surely go extinct soon. There are three main explanations for this current mass extinction.

Migrating Naturalist: Backside Molokai

February 20th, 2011

Where HWRF conducts it’s humpback research varies daily, according to wind and weather conditions. We primarily operate in the waters between Maui and Lanai, occasionally venturing towards Kaho’olawe or Molokai. It is only on the very rarest of days that we are able to reach a particularly elusive and breathtakingly awesome area, and these chances may come only once each year. That area is the back side of Molokai, almost completely uninhabited, and full of mysterious beauty.

Migrating Naturalist: Smell The Sea And Feel The Sky

February 17th, 2011

Driving Deep Blue, with Anna Lieding our underwater photographer in the background

The Hawaii Whale Research Foundation is an entirely non-profit organization, run on the energy and charity of a number of local volunteers, as well as international interns. For the most part, the foundation has no trouble finding talented photographers and drivers who are passionate about whales. Unfortunately, life on Maui is not cheap, and consequently many of our local volunteers have to juggle multiple jobs in addition to their work with HWRF. Particularly this year, we have had some difficulty solidifying a weekly schedule for boat drivers, and so I’ve had the opportunity to work on driver training, in addition to my regular duties.