(Maui) Whale Trust’s research team captured this footage on February 7th near Olowalu, showing a mom with her head down and pectoral fins out while her young calf circles around. The encounter marks the third time this season that the team has identified the same female humpback whale displaying the rarely observed behavior known as “sailing.” The behavior, in which a whale lifts its tail clear of the water for long periods of time, is common in right whale populations but less common in humpbacks. When humpback whales, especially mothers, in Maui are observed sailing it is not uncommon to observe one individual repeating the behavior pattern within and between seasons. The purpose of sailing is unknown but one idea is that it may help to regulate body temperature.
Haley Robb, a Whale Trust research intern, reports, “The cow held her fluke in the air for 7-10 minutes before floating up, backward, and then resting at the surface for approximately 5 minutes. She then repeated the sailing behavior. We stayed with the cow and calf for two hours and were unable to determine if the calf nursed when the cow was holding this position. During our time with the group, there were two occasions when the cow and calf breached. It was noted that for a least one of the occasions there were other whales within 300 yards of the cow and calf.”
Whale Trust’s research programs focus on exploring the natural communication, behavior patterns, and social organization of whales. Its founders are passionate scientists and explorers who believe that science—the quest for answers to the most intriguing questions about our natural world—lies at the heart of environmental education and conservation. Results from Whale Trust’s field research are the basis for a broad program of outreach and education that involve the public, educators, and a new generation of researchers. As part of Whale Trust’s outreach, the organization hosts Whale Tales, an annual 4-day educational event in West Maui featuring presentations by world-renowned scientists, conservationists, and photographers. The 13th Annual Whale Tales is scheduled for February 15-18, 2019. Learn more at whaletrust.org,
Video: Ralph Pace, Whale Trust. NMFS Permit #19225.
Photo: Ralph Pace/Minden Pictures, Whale Trust. NMFS Permit #19225.