Jake's List: Ten Things About Humpbacks You May Not Know

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Jake's List: Ten Things About Humpbacks You May Not Know

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Oahu
Feb 21, 2014

whale watching off diamond head1. Did you know the tongue of an humpback whales weighs 2,000 pounds? That’s the weight of a VW Bug. And 363,000 pennies. And, of course, a ton of bricks. The one-ton tongue of a 45-ton humpback whale works like a giant tofu press to squeeze water out of its mouth in order to eat.

2. Did you know humpback whales eat 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of plankton, krill, and schooling fish per day?

3. That there are two sub-orders of cetaceans—Odontoceti and Mysticeti? The first are toothed whales, like the Killer whales, sperm whales and dolphins. But our humpback whales do not have teeth. They have baleen (think broom bristles) that works like a sieve and allows water to filter out of their large mouths while trapping food. And that the name “Mysticeti” translates to “mustache,” a descriptor for their baleen.

4. How about that all that eating takes place in the colder waters off Alaska—NOT in Hawaii? That after humpback whales journey 3,000 miles over four to six weeks to arrive in Hawaii during the months of November through May, they don’t eat. Nope. Not a single krill, plankton or schooling fish.

5. And that the endangered marine mammal loses up to one-third their body weight in the process? That’s 15,000 pounds, give or take.

6. That baleen whales have two blowholes (unlike their tooth cousins) that are situated within a fleshy ridge? So while they’re making that long journey to Hawaii, they don’t have to worry about water flooding their nasal passages when they surface for a breath of air.

7. Humpback whales are mammals, of course, as evidenced by the hairs protruding from their knobby tubercles on their snouts and chins. But did you know these hairs pick up vibrations in the water and let the humpbacks know what’s going on in their environment?

8. That Humpback whales coloration uses “countershading” for camouflage. When a humpback is on the surface, their light ventral side allows them to blend into their surroundings. As does their dark dorsal side when they dive into deep water. This is especially important for younger humpback whales that are vulnerable to attacks from the toothy Killer whales.

9. That fins don’t have bones but flippers do? Each of the humpback’s 15-foot pectoral fins has five finger bones, an elbow and shoulder bone. But the Humpback’s name comes from its dorsal fin, which doesn’t look much like a fin. Rather, a hump.

10. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a camera does you no good in its bag. There are a few rules when it comes to photographing that should never be violated. The easiest rule, which can sometimes be the hardest, is that you never put your camera away. Period. Because just when you do, the shot you’ve been waiting hours for will happen, and your camera will be turned off, tucked in its bag, and capturing zero pictures of the whale calf breaching outside the harbor. Take it from me. I know. (Hence, the re-touched image in this post;-)

And, so, this begins a series I’m starting based on the recommendations of a friendly concierge I met recently at Outrigger Reef on the Beach. When Jake discovered I lived on Kauai, so began the usual discourse between two people in Hawaii meeting for the first time—where do you live? Oh, my dad’s family is from there. Do you know so-and-so? How about so-and-so? By the time we finished, I knew I had to include Jake in this blog. He’s just the kind of character I like.

Jake was born and raised on the island of Oahu. He is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools: Kapalama Campus and holds a bachelors degree in Exercise Science from Pacific University. When Jake isn’t recommending activities and restaurants for guests at Outrigger Reef on the Beach, he enjoys spending time with his two dogs and cooking. In that order. (See. My kinda guy.)

When I asked Jake why he recommended whale watching and why the boat Navatek, he said, “Hawai'i is a mecca of whale activity during whale season and it's what makes ‘winter time’ enjoyable for everyone.  I particularly like the Navatek due to the design of hull, it cuts right through the water, and it doesn't seem like you are on a boat."

And after spending a half day on Navatek’s whale watch with lunch buffet, my recommendation is thus:

1. Skip the buffet lunch, save half the price, and book a morning whale watch. The idea is to spend as much time as possible with the whales. You really won’t want to eat, at all.

2. Bypass the floating banquet room and head for the lower observation deck on the bow, where there is shade and great views. Here, you’ll also be able to chat with Navatek’s on-board naturalist. Christina was wielding the microphone when I was on board and shared all the facts above. She (and the whales, of course) made this experience what it was.

3. On the outbound trip, situate yourself on the port (left) side of the boat for the amazing scenic views of Waikiki, Diamond Head, and Koko Head. On the return, move over to the starboard side.

4. Do not put your camera away until you are safely ensconced on the bus for the return trip to your hotel. And maybe not even then;-)

5. Stop by and see Jake at the concierge desk at Outrigger Reef on the Beach. He's got a great smile, and I'll bet he puts on a smile on your face, too. And I'm not just saying that because his big Hawaiian cousin lives down the road from me!


Michael | Feb 25, 2014 07:05 AM


Mary | Feb 25, 2014 03:03 PM

I think I'll schedule a vacation. Thanks for the suggestion. :)

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