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.
Back home in Tofino, I’ve had the pleasure of driving a number of vessels, as the naturalists on a boat must be capable of taking over, should the driver become incapacitated. I’ve always enjoyed these chances, as it’s exciting to learn a new skill, and the ocean is always full of surprises. There’s something mysteriously enticing about zipping over the swell with the salty wind blowing your hair back, while searching the horizon for that ephemeral puff of whale breath.
Driving around whales during a research encounter is not simple, as we are trying to remain less than 100 yards from the group through the entire observation. Consequently, you have to learn to predict the group’s movements, while considering the photographer’s needs to obtain ID photos with proper sun angles. I have learned a great deal from our wonderful and experienced drivers, and hope to continue to do so before I must depart Maui. Practicing a new trade demands that you to venture outside your comfort zone, while cultivating valuable new skills. Try something new today, you just might surprise yourself!