Posted by: onboardtourswhales | March 13, 2012

Spinner Dolphins!

A stormy, rainy, windy week for the Hawaiian Islands. Kaua’i and O’ahu got hit harder than we did on Maui, although we also had flooding, trees go down, and road damage. That didn’t stop the bigger tour boats from going out, so on March 8, 2012, Thursday afternoon, with a 1.8’ flooding full moon influenced tide, we headed out of Lahaina toward Lana’i Island!

The winds calmed down, the sun peaked through the clouds, the rain stopped, and our timing included some slack water- calmer waters when the tide has peaked. Surprise! We immediately come across a mother Humpback Whale with her calf and an escort whale. The baby whale surfacing, while mom seemed to be resting, coming up to log at the surface. The escort stayed under water. Mom woke up and the group gathered, picked up speed, and swam away.

We could see whales spouting, breathing in the distance, when I noticed dolphins! A group of 6+ swam directly to the starboard, right side of the boat. Spinner Dolphins, my first sighting this year! They tend to rest during the day in a large community of hundreds of dolphins, in shallower waters, more near shore, perhaps as a defense against predators such as sharks. They usually become more active at dusk, hunting their preferred prey- lantern fish that rise from the depths at night. There is some research happening regarding the Spinner Dolphins behaviors, resting sites, and how human presence when they are resting may impact them.

I have noticed dolphins and porpoise often being more active in rougher sea conditions. Is it because they have to surface higher to get that breath of air? Now there are hundreds of the Spinners surrounding the boat and spread out to sea, leaping, synchronized, spinning in the air, and even one was swimming at the surface on its back! They sure move fast! Those little ‘toothed whales’ have close family and community relationships. We saw juvenile and baby Spinners amongst the adults. I am convinced cetaceans are often curious about our human vocalizations. Of course I couldn’t help myself, I was ‘talking’ to them and making my dolphin squeaks and noises. There were dolphins right under me the whole time! Then, after about a magical half hour, poof! The dolphins all decide to move on.

We humans are elated when we spot a group of 7+? whales a few thousand feet out. Their closeness to each other, a bit of fluke and pectoral slapping, surface bubble trails, indicated it was a ‘competitive’ group of males competing for a female’s attention. They were traveling fairly fast and time for us to head in.

The trip and then a rainbow over the south end of Maui reminded me why I enjoy going out on the sea even in rougher conditions. The marine life reacts differently than we humans and they are phenomenal!

I am also a volunteer for the Whale Trust and enjoyed sharing science and education with folks visiting the Lahaina Ocean Arts and Whale Festival on Saturday and Sunday, March 10 & 11, 2012. Check out their website from the link on the right!

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