Humpbacks are found near coastlines and migrate
annually to winter off the west coast of Maui.They
are powerful swimmers and they use their massive
tail fin, called a fluke to propel themselves through
the water - and sometimes completely out of the
water. These whales, like others, regularly leap
from the water.
Mothers and their young swim close together, often
touching one another with their flippers with what
appear to be gestures of affection. The new calves
are born without a protective blubber layer so they
need the warm water to survive. Hawaiian waters
average around 75 degrees in Maui, which creates
a more suitable environment.
Females nurse their calves for almost a year,
though it takes far longer than that for a humpback
whale to reach full adulthood. Calves do not stop
growing until they are ten years old.
Maui's unique topography is another reason why
the humpback whales spend their winters here. The
islands of Maui, Lanai, Molaki and Kahoolawe
shelter and protect the waters. As the islands are in
such close proximity, they form a shallow basin at
the ocean's bottom compared to the deep
surrounding Pacific Ocean waters at 1-3 miles
depths. The average depth in the area off of
Lahaina is about 300 feet.
Another reason to come to Maui is that Hawaiian
waters are virtually predator free for the humpback
whales. They have very few natural predators: a
few species of sharks, the orca whale, and humans
are their predators. The humpbacks encounter
orcas in the waters of Alaska, but Hawaii rarely
sees orca whales as they prefer colder waters.
Humpback whales are known for their magical
songs, which travel for great distances through the
world's oceans. Scientists are studying their sounds
and songs to decipher their meaning. It is most
likely that humpbacks sing to communicate with
others and to attract potential mates.