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By: Denver Leaman

Humpback whales use Hawaii as a wintering area where they calve and mate. During calving season water temperatures are in the upper 70-degree (F) range. Most of the calves are born in areas of shallow water. I have seen 45-foot mothers with their calves in 25 feet of water.

This new mother has “Junior” lying across her nose or rostrum. In this photo she is moving directly towards the camera with the calf facing left. She continued swimming slowly at the surface with the calf in this position for about twenty minutes. Calves are negatively buoyant and would sink after birth without initial support. This photo was taken in the boat mooring area in Kailua Bay.

When calves are old enough they try breaching. This small calf got quite a ways out of the water.

When whales breach they are sometimes hard to capture on film. If they would only breach in the center of the picture it would be easy.

Darn… too slow again.! These two photos are typical of many attempts to capture this behavior on film.

Sometimes you have better luck. These two whales breached in tandem multiple times.

This is the typical high arching of the back that signals a tail up dive.

The tail of each whale is unique and the counter shading patterns can be used to identify individual animals.

Here is the same whale sighted near the shoreline a few days later.

Tails can range in color from nearly all white to totally black.

Most humpbacks have tail flukes displaying unique combinations of black and white. These “fingerprints” can be used to study things like rates of growth and reproduction. These types of research would be impossible if you couldn’t identify individuals.

This V-shaped blow is unique to mysticetes or baleen whales. Odonticetes or toothed whales only possess a single nostril.

The blow is produced by the two large nares or nostrils. Humpbacks exhale about 90% of their lung volume at a time. This picture also shows the tubercles on the face of the whale. Mammals possess hair and whales are mammals. The hairs on a humpback are on these golf ball sized tubercles.

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Denver Leaman

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