Migrating Naturalist: Backside Molokai

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.

There was almost no wind as we set out on Deep Blue this morning, and I tried not to let myself get too excited as we started to move towards Molokai, picking up small whale groups as we progressed North. Throughout last year’s season, the weather had not favoured an attempt at Molokai, but I had heard many stories of it’s impressive 3000-foot cliffs and awe-inspiring waterfalls. As we progressed farther and the ocean remained perfectly calm, I started to believe that we might actually make it. Slowly we wrapped around the back of the island, and as towering sheer green cliffs came into view, the Jurassic Park theme song inescapably began running through my head. I actually couldn’t stop myself from bursting out, singing the familiar booming notes loudly with contagious glee. The camera had already begun snapping non-stop, as none of us wanted to miss the beauty that we would surely remember forever. Molokai is one of Hawaii’s least developed islands, and the landscape varies from lush jungle at one end, to near-desert at the other. We drank in the lush greens, cascading waterfalls, remote rock beaches, rocks sculpted into dragons, and even a small shack in the middle of nowhere, which looked to be barely standing but could not have been more inviting.

Of course, there was still work to be done, and as we cruised along filling our eyes and minds with staggering wonders, we paused here and there along the way to observe humpback groups tucked along the shoreline. All of them contained calves, most of which appeared to be very young. The principal investigator for HWRF (and our fearless leader) Dan Salden noted that if he expected to see humpback birth anywhere, this was the place. Alas, no calving was seen today, but no one felt as though they missed out at all. As I sit recalling a vast sense of wonder, I can only be thankful that nature saw fit to grace us with such a wonderful experience. Try to bask in every one of life’s beautiful moments as they come your way, for it’s all too often that we don’t realize how precious they are until they’ve passed us by.

2 Responses to “Migrating Naturalist: Backside Molokai”

  1. Keith says:

    So has Dan seen a birth of a humpback??? I thought no has ever seen that… I guess I’m wrong. That is one reason why West Coast Aquatic Safaris sent you off to intern with HWRF – to keep us updated with whale research!

    Thanks for all your interesting blogs

  2. wcasblog says:

    No Keith, you’re right, no one has yet witnessed humpback birth. However Dan has actually seen immediately after, and has photos of the placenta. He was just saying that the backside of Molokai was the most likely place, but I’m still hoping we might catch it happening! Thanks for the comment!

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