Under the watchful eye of its mother, a humpback whale calf breached the surface of the water in Puhi Bay on Friday morning near Keaukaha Beach Park.
The pair spent all morning lazing about under the sun, as onlookers marveled from the shore, aboard kayaks, and from atop the bay’s break wall.
University of Hawaii at Hilo marine biology professor Jason Turner said that the whales may be one of several pairs that have been spotted in an around the bay in the past few days. He said they may appear to be very close in to shore, but examples like this “just tell us that the water is deeper than we perceive from shore, and that the whales are perfectly safe using that area.”
Now is prime whale-watching season in Hawaii, he added.
“Females are here to mate and give birth from December through early April,” he said. “Oftentimes, the newborn calves remain at the surface while the female and a male humpback are beneath; the calf is in no danger, it just cannot hold its breath as long as mom, and so it hangs at the surface.”
A report of a shark in Puhi Bay caused a commotion on Friday afternoon, but the sighting turned out to be a whale.
“It was a whale and her calf,” said Bill Hanson, an administrative officer for Hawaii County Civil Defense, said late Friday afternoon. “What a relief.”
Each Wednesday morning, Turner takes students in his Biology of Marine Mammals class out to monitor and document the whales, including snapping photographs and collecting underwater sound recordings. He also serves in a state network as the “East Hawaii large whale disentanglement responder” if a whale is found to be caught up in marine debris.