Watch this video first and test your whale knowledge!
Have you ever been to Hawaii to witness the annual migration of humpback whales there? Recently, my friend Makana Vianzos was out fishing off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i when their group encountered a pod of beautiful humpback whales singing and welcoming in the day.
For centuries, the ocean had been plentiful with humpback whales. But the dawn of the 20th century saw the beginning of commercial whaling on a grand scale and the decline of this beautiful marine species.
Hawai'i has long been a center of humpback whale activity. More than 10,000 whales migrate into the warmer waters surrounding the islands every winter. In the past, they were hunted for their oil. Today, they are prized for their beauty and serenity as well as for their ability to attract mass tourism to this island chain.
As children of the ocean, we grew up swimming in the waters surrounded by the haunting sounds of whale songs while they passed through our waters. It's a sound that still echoes through my memory from time to time.
Recently, I learned that whales from different regions of the world sing different songs. Although all the whales from one region sing the same identical song, families of whales from the opposite side of the globe sing in a different way. The Pacific whales sing one song, and the Atlantic whales sing another. Scientists still don't know why.
Here are 5 more random trivia facts about Hawaii's humpback whales. (If you want to take a guess at each question before reading the answers, be sure to watch the video above first!)
1) Is it the male or female who sings?
Researchers have yet to find or record a female humpback whale singing. As of now, it is believed that only the males do this. Although it's true that both male and female will make sounds, only the males have been documented as singers.
2) How Long Can a Humpback Whale Hold Its Breath?
Even though humpback whales will usually surface every 10 minutes or so to breathe, they can actually remain submerged for much longer. Some whales have been recorded to stay under water for up to 45 minutes. However, the babies, or calves, are not as gifted, they come to the surface every 3-5 minutes.
3) How Far Do Hawai'i Humpbacks Travel Each Year?
Simply put, every year they travel from Alaska to Hawai'i and back. But if you looked at it in numbers, the round trip itself is about 5,000 miles or so. Not bad for animals who tap out at a travel speed of about 3-7 miles per hour.
4) How Long Does a Calf Stay With Its Mother?
On average, a baby humpback will spend about one year with its mother. They are born in the waters around the Hawaiian islands, and travel to Alaska with their family. Some calves have been observed accompanying their mothers back to Hawai'i during the next winter, but generally these calves will permanently separate from mama whale before that.
5) Who Chooses Their Mate? The Male or Female?
In Humpbackland it's a lady's world! As far as scientists can tell, the females are the ones who get to call the last shot.
*The cover photo used to promote this post is the work of Eric Charlton at
Creative Commons, and the original video is the property of Makana Vianzos.
I'm JR. I come from a long line of adventurers, some were nomadic explorers of the sea and others wandering cultivators of the earth. Ultimately, this legacy of drifters has deeply affected my view of travel. Read more...