Migrating Naturalist: Return To The Whales

Today was the day I’ve been waiting for since my arrival on Maui just over a week ago—our first research day of the season! Ever since my last whale watch in Tofino, I had been longing for the chance to get back on the ocean, and back to the humpbacks, one of the most captivating creatures on the planet. After waking up to gusting winds and the arrival of a cruise ship, our departure from the harbour was a little delayed. The sun had risen above the West Maui mountains long before we pulled into open waters, but the familiar sensation of ocean air on my face, and the thrill of our first humpback spout was exactly how I had remembered.

The research done by HWRF focuses mainly on the social behaviour of humpbacks, and so we try to observe groups of at least two whales, although larger groups tend to provide more interesting data. Within minutes of searching, we already had a competitive group (explained in my fourth blog, “Too Close For Comfort!”) visible in front of us, and we went straight to work, taking photos and recording observations. Not only were our first two groups full of exciting competitive behaviour, but before lunch we had already watched a whale repeatedly breach directly in front of the boat! Now, as the interns lie about the house in various stages of exhaustion, I feel the familiar contentment that comes from doing exactly what you love.  I could not be more grateful to spend my year going between two of the best jobs on the planet, following humpbacks as they live out their incredible lives!

My name is Diana, and for the past two years, I have been traveling between my naturalist position in Tofino with West Coast Aquatic Safaris, and my research intern position with the Hawaii Whale Research Foundation. Throughout my second season with HWRF, I am writing regular blogs, describing my experiences on the water and here in Maui.

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