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The Story of Blue
Blue is a humpback whale named by Eric Foley in honor of his Evan, who suffers from cerebral palsy. Blue is his favorite color, and he loves animals.
It is uncertain if Blue is a male or female. The way that we determine the sex of a whale is to photograph the whale’s underside, either when it breaches or by our researchers swimming beneath it. Sometimes our researchers can decide whether a whale is male or female by its social interactions and behaviors; for example, a whale that is seen alone in close proximity to a calf is likely to be its mother (and of course, a female).
Blue was sighted on February 22, 2013 by our researchers during their Surprise Encounter Study and was observed with an additional adult and a calf. From the notes, it wasn't determined whether Blue was the mother or an escort mail.
Humpback whales, like other baleen whales, do not form long-lasting pods. A mother and calf will remain together for nearly a year; however most other humpback whales are solitary, joining with other humpback whales for just a few hours at a time.
Blue is a part of a population of humpback whales known to scientists as the North Pacific stock. During the months of November through May, the majority of the North Pacific stock can be found in the Hawaiian Islands, where the whales mate, breed, and care for their young. In particular, many of these humpback whales are seen in an area bordered by the four islands of Maui, Molokai, Lana‘i, and Kahoolawe, where the seas are relatively shallow (less than 100 fathoms deep). Just a few miles outside of this region, the sea drops off to a depth of 1,000 fathoms!
Researchers believe that the humpback whales select this area as their mating and breeding ground because the waters are warm and shallow, offering better protection for the newborn calves (which are born with very little insulating blubber). However, food for the whales is also very scarce in this area, which is why researchers believe that the adult whales usually do not eat while they are in Hawai'i. The young calves, however, feed on their mothers' rich milk, nearly tripling their weight in a year’s time.
Other mating and breeding areas for the North Pacific humpbacks include Baja California and the Bonin Islands, Ryuku Islands and the Marianna Islands, which are south of Japan. However, the majority of the humpbacks appear to choose Hawaii.