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False Killer Whales are Here!! but not everybody gets to see them.....
It was one of those perfect days on the water....vog actually made the light look a bit surreal, but there was no wind in most of the four island area and the sun was shining bright above the mist. Looking from a certain angle, I almost got fooled into believing I was still in Monterey Bay during one of those "normal" foggy days when you try to open the mists of Avalon to no avail.
The Kama V left before any of the whalewatching vessels did. We were hoping to hear from them later via radio, but, in the meantime, we had to pick a direction of travel so Lanai it was. We know that spinner dolphins hang close to the coastline there and that there is always a good change of runnning into them near Manele Bay.
Not today though. Despite the good conditions and a great crew, we could not find a single dorsal fin in sight. Because the conditions were so good we decided to keep going and poked our head into the other side of Lanai. The conditions were good there too and we kept going againa and again until we completely circumnavigated Lanai. Few humpback whales were traveling on the other side and definitely no odontocetes (toothed whales).
We were elated nonetheless, because Lanai is a sight to behold, a gem of soffused greens and browns dotted with yellow stetches of beach. And sheer cliffs, vertical to the water, looking precarious, almost like they want to dive into the blue at any time.
But we did see something that made us smile a lot. A Laysan albatross greeted our boat with pirouettes and showed off its flight skills. These birds have a 6'4'' wingspan and roam the world's oceans for food. They come to land only to breed and Hawaii is one of the nesting areas. However, these giant among marine birds is a rare sight in Maui county and is considered a blessing by mariners, so his greeting our boat was welcomed.
Coming back into the four-island waters we heard of False Killer Whale sightings by one of our boats and of pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins mixing it up in Molokini. FInally some action...It was a long way from were we were to Molokininbut Kama V is an amazingly smootth ride and, despite having to go slow do keep whale aware, we finally started to see, behind the mist, our favourite crater shaped rim.
But again, no sightings. Whatever was near Molokinin a couple of hours before was moving way to fast for us. Research is like that sometime. You try hard to find animals and you spend long hours on the water, and still, nothing. One thing I learned over the years, though, is to not underestimate the power of zero. It is as important, from a research perspective, to understand where animals ARE NOT. It can give you quite an insight on habitat use. Most toothed whales in Hawaii, keep moving a lot in search of food. Food is scarece in the tropics because productivity is low, and finding fish to eat can be quite a challenge even for the smartest cetacean. So our false killer whales were moving fast through the area and were being sighted by many of our whale-watching vessels, who kindly encouraged us and provided us with photos when, at the end of the day, we realized we were not likely to find them again.
We had a wonderful day nonetheless. Just being on the water and absorbing the beauty that is freely made available to us on a daily basis makes us feel lucky for what we do.