WHALE . . . WHAT IS A WHALE?
It is the largest animal ever known, either in the
sea or on the land! Because it is so big and pow-erful, often
people use its name to describe other very large and unusual things.
They will say, "That's a whale of a job!" or, "That's a whale
of a load on that truck!" The whale most often seen in Hawaiian
waters is the humpback. If one landed on a Kauai beach, it would
take 10 or 12 of you and your friends, with arms outstretched
to each other as shown below, to measure its great length!
WHALE: A MAMMAL, NOT A FISH!
Though they look like big fish and live in the water,
whales are not fish, they are mammals: they nurse their very young
at birth much like human mothers. Whales breathe with lungs, not
through gills (which in fish separate oxygen from water). They
come up out of the water
|to catch a breath of air, but can stay under water
then for almost an hour! When they need more air, they come to the
surface and blow the stale air out of a blowhole on the top of their
head. This is called "spout-ing." There are two main kinds of whales
today. They are different, among other things, in the way they eat.
One, the toothed whale, has teeth and eats squid and large fish.
Dolphins, killer whales, porpoises and sperm whales are toothed
whales. The other is the baleen whale, named for the rough strips
|mouths which look like close-fitting teeth of a comb.
It is a material sim-ilar to your fingernails. The whale gulps a
mouthful of water and food, then squirts the water out, and the
food is trapped by the baleen screen. Baleen whales like the humpback
and the blue are the largest, but they eat very small animals such
as herring,plankton and shrimp-like krill.
A TRIP FROM ALASKA TO HAWAII
During winter the humpbacks leave the icy waters around Alaska
and travel to warmer places such as Hawaii. They may not eat at
all during their long trip and perhaps very little during their
stay here. They use their fatty layers of blubber for energy.
These whales mate and give birth to their young in Hawaiian waters.
The whale baby, called a calf, is born tail first. Immediately
after birth the mother quickly nudges it to the surface of the
ocean so it can learn to breathe and swim. Whale calves drink
their mother's milk for the first 11 months of their lives. A
whale calf at birth weighs about one ton and is about 14 feet
long. The mother's milk is very rich and when the calf leaves
Hawaii after about four months, it will be 25 feet long. Adult
whales weigh up to 45 tons!
HUMPBACKS ARE ALIVE & WELL, BUT MUST BE PROTECTED
In earlier days, humpbacks were hunted down by whaling ships,
so much so that their continued existence was very much in danger.
Now they are no longer in such danger, but they still must be
protected. Whale-watchers must be careful not to get too close
with boats, jet skis or helicopters. If the humpbacks are scared
away from the shallow waters where they nurse their young, they
are in danger from sharks. You may be able to see whales leaping
and spouting in the ocean during the months of December through
April. Look for their great, flashing
| tails called flukes. On Kauai they are often seen
from Kilauea Point and Poipu. They are also active near Molokai,
Lanai and Maui. The Kona Coast and South Point on the Big Island
and near the Hanauma Bay area on Oahu are other good places to see