Migrating Naturalist: Whale Tales

Some people follow the lives of movie stars, and some worship rock gods, but personally, I turn into a stammering fan around celebrities of the science world. Particularly in whale research, there are a handful of very well-known experts who have been studying and photographing these creatures since the research began. Over 30 years ago, these inspiring naturalists began the immense task of unveiling the mysteries surrounding humpback whales, and they still pursue this goal with the same passion and drive today. A large number of these experts were involved in Whale Tales, a day-long event that I had the luck and pleasure of being involved in yesterday.

Our HWRF crew arrived early at the Ritz Carlton in Kapalua, to assist in preparations for the conference. We had the opportunity to help out by selling tickets for a series of benefit whale watches, featuring photographer Flip Nicklin, researchers Dan Salden and Jim Darling, and many more. Best of all, 100% of the proceeds from these tours was donated to Whale Tales and the research organizations involved. A number of leading experts gave a series of amazing and eye-opening talks throughout the day, and the impressive turnout was a clear demonstration of the incredible support that exists here for humpbacks.

This was the inaugural year for Whale Tales, although it follows in the footprints of a prior festival known as Whale Quest Kapalua. This had for 4 years running been a three-day educational symposium, providing children’s events as well as presentations from whale experts.  Unfortunately, the economic downturn and subsequent loss of an important donor prevented Whale Quest from continuing in 2010, a disheartening blow for those involved.  Luckily, the spirit of this event was preserved, and using what funds were available, another attempt was made under the new name Whale Tales.

The overwhelming support seen yesterday is certainly an encouraging indication that Whale Tales will be continuing for many years to come. I consider myself lucky to have been a part of this movement for just one year, and hope that the drive to keep humpback research and protection alive remains as vibrant and strong as it is today.

My name is Diana, and for the past two years, I have been travelling 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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