Disclaimer: I am NOT video savvy and I can only hope the quality of these videos is half as beautiful and inspiring as the real life sightings were. Also, I have lost audio on my Sony A6500 (user error) which really stinks because the sounds emitted by the whales are so fun to hear. Anyway, I hope you enjoy these videos despite my amateur status.
Aboard Ticket to Ride, we were aware that in January humpback whales begin arriving in quantities following their annual migration route to Hawaii. We wanted to see these giants and all indications were that hanging out on Maui was the best place to insure plenty of sightings. So in mid January we left Oahu and sailed to Maui. We have been anchoring around Maui for over six weeks now and the thrill of seeing and hearing the humpback whales has not diminished!
Humpback whales are a subspecies of the baleen whale and one of the larger whales that has a streamlined body with pleated skin (scientific name for this body type is rorqual). The females grow larger than the males and can be 40 to 45 feet in length and weigh 25-35 tons!
Perhaps the most striking or recognizable feature of the humpback whale is their flippers which can be 15 feet long and are often stark white (or partially white) in contrast to their gray/black bodies. When the whales are close to us, it is easy to see the bright white of their pectoral fins under the clear Hawaiian water.
One day we spotted a few whales to starboard, with one breaching, and we were surprised by another whale that approached from our port side! TTR was drifting without engines and the big guy in the video above was so close we could easily see his white fin and the bubbles he left in his wake right in front of our bow! The protrusive bumps on the heads of humpback whales are also very recognizable. You can barely see them in this video.
Similar to a snowflake or a fingerprint, the tails of the humpbacks have unique markings which can be used to identify them individually! The photo below shows a few tales with unique fluke markings.
I didn’t know much about whales when we left Oahu to search them out near Maui, but I have read a bit now and the more I learn, the more interesting these mammals become.
Humpbacks are found near all continents and seem to migrate to specific locations every year, although occasionally a whale or two will migrate to a different area some years. In general:
-humpbacks that feed from Northern California to Vancouver Island in the summer will find breeding grounds in Mexican and Central American waters.
-those that feed from Vancouver Island to Alaska in summer are found in Hawaii in the winter, though some will migrate to Mexico.
-humpbacks that feed in the Bering Sea, along the western Aleutian Islands and along the Russian coast are likely to be found in the Asian breeding areas.
The whales in Maui travel about 2,700 miles from Alaska each way. That sounds like quite the distance but some whales travel as much as 5,000 miles to a breeding ground.
The females travel to Hawaii to give birth to their calves and the males follow the females in search of breeding. Humpbacks feast on krill and small fish in the summer but once they begin the migration, they do not eat again until they return to the north.
The female humpback whale has a gestation period of 11.5 months and they have live births. Once the calf is born, it nurses until they return to Alaska and it begins eating small fish and krill. This means that a female humpback stops eating when she begins the migration, she births her calf, nurses the calf until they return to the north and she does not eat during that whole period!
Only male humpback whales sing! The purpose of singing is not known but theories abound. Some say the whales sing to help with location/sonar. Others say the singing is a way of attracting females. But whatever the reason, whales from one area all sing the same song which lasts 10 to 20 minutes.
But guess what?! The song changes every season. So for all you whale listeners out there, the tune will change from one year to the next. We can even hear the whales while on board TTR. Every night when I prepare for bed, I can hear the whales through the hull of our boat!
Humpback whales are seen in many parts of Hawaii, but the channels between Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Kahoolawe have the largest number of whales.
Although humpbacks were hunted nearly to the point of extinction, their numbers have revived since the moratorium on whaling was put into effect. Rough estimates are that when whaling began in the early 1900’s, there were approximately 15,000 whales worldwide and by the time whaling stopped in the mid-1960s, only around 1,200 humpbacks still existed!
Two things happened to save these giant, graceful mammals. First, the whales became so difficult to find that the whalers turned to other species. Secondly, in 1966, after approximately 90% of the whale population had been eradicated, a moratorium was placed on whale hunting.
The IWC (International Whaling Commission) was created in1966 to educate people and raise awareness of whale endangerment. The IWC currently has 88 member countries around the world, though it does not have any enforcement power.
In the early 1970’s crude methods of estimating the number of humpbacks visiting Hawaii put their number at only a few hundred. A friend told us that at that time, during an eight hour whale watching tour, you were lucky to spot one or two whales.
In 2004-2006, a world wide survey estimated the humpback population at 20,000 with nearly half of those visiting the Hawaiian Islands during the breeding season. This is an encouraging recovery that gives hope for other endangered species!
I was surprised to learn that each whale only stays four to six weeks in Hawaii. So the whales I saw in mid-January will not be the same ones I see in March. The whales are continually changing as they cycle through the islands, then migrate back to their home feeding grounds.
The number of whales today must be huge because we can see them in the channel from our anchorage at all times of the day. In fact, sometimes they are very close, moving slowly through the anchorage!
Whales within the anchorage are usually a mom and young calf. The females appear to seek out shallow water where they can rest with their calves and perhaps find protection from predators or persistent males who want to breed. Just the other day we heard an exhale and saw a puff of breath from a twosome between us and another boat anchored near us!
Young calves need to surface more often than the mothers who can stay beneath the water for 10 to 20 minutes. As seen in the video below, a calf will surface, swim in circles and take three or four breaths before returning to the mother.
Females usually give birth every other year, thus having a rest year, though some will reproduce every year.
My research tells me that females do not mingle with other females while in Hawaii and they keep their young separated. However, the females do interact when in their feeding grounds.
Humpback whales who travel to Hawaii have very different agendas. The females are focusing on giving birth or reproduction. However, the females seem to be interested in quality and will seek the whales they deem the strongest and most healthy.
Male humpback whales, have traveled thousands of miles to the breeding ground and have only reproduction on their brain. Researchers believe the males are all about quantity and will breed any available females.
Although the whole population of humpbacks is about 50/50 male to female, in breeding areas like Hawaii, there is a 2.5 or 3 to one ratio of males to females. This is true because not all females migrate every year.
Often several males are seen together following or searching for a female. A group of males chasing a female is called a ‘heat run.’ The males in a heat run are often very active on the surface of the water and can be seen vying for the attention of the female.
We happened to come across a heat run and caught it on videos. The video above shows what the heat run looked like from the bows of TTR.
Fortunately, Frank was able to launch the drone and he caught this amazing footage of a pod of 20+ whales. The largest one, toward the front is a female. Here is a video of the same group of whales taken from above.
Heat runs can last for hours as the males chase the female. The males inflate their bodies to appear larger, expel streams of bubbles and push each other around in an effort to secure the female’s interest.
The recovery of whales is truly encouraging and witnesses that with effort, endangered species can recover. Through education and conscious decision making, we can be better stewards of this Earth and the animals that inhabit it.
This post is full of videos, which I try to avoid because they require so much internet! But, the beauty of these whales is unique and hard to capture so I wanted to share some videos in an effort to more accurately reflect our experiences. Hopefully you have much better access to wifi than I do and this doesn’t take too long to load.
Thanks for stopping by to read our blog post. We hope you enjoyed this glimpse of the humpback whales in Hawaii. We are so fortunate to see them! Please turn to our Instagram or Facebook pages to hear from us more often.
In response to COVID, Hawaii shut down or restricted access to many State Parks. The iconic Diamond Head State Park has been closed since late March – the whole time we have been in Hawaii.
The Hawaiian name for the crater is Lē’ahí but the common moniker of Diamond Head dates back to the late 1700’s when Western explorers mistook the calcite crystals in the rocky slopes for diamonds.
On Thursday, December 17th, I saw that the park was reopened and the very next day Frank and I went to hike this famous landmark…. no moss growing under these feet! Plus we wanted to go immediately just in case Diamond Head is closed again.
Geologists believe Lē’ahi was created in a brief, single eruption about 300,000 years ago. The crater is wider than it is tall and includes about 350 acres.
The extraordinary view from Diamond Head’s summit makes it the perfect place for coastal defense of Oahu. The Federal government bought Diamond Head in 1904 for this purpose. In 1908 construction was begun for the Kapahulu Tunnel through the north wall of the crater as was construction of gun emplacements. Four artillery batteries were built at Diamond Head between 1910 and 1916 and a fifth was built in 1943. Long range guns were installed along the outer walls of the crater, but no guns have ever been fired from Diamond Head during a war.
The hike to the summit was shorter than I thought it would be; less than one mile from the start to the top of the crater, and it took us to an elevation of 761 feet. That certainly isn’t like hiking a fourteener mountain, but the the top was high enough to allow us to see much of Oahu and the Pacific Ocean.
Looking toward “town” we could see boats anchored off Waikiki Beach where we had been anchored just a couple of weeks ago. When anchored off Waikiki Beach we had a unique view of looking at the skyline from the water. Now we could see that gorgeous blue water from Diamond Head.
The park had strict rules about wearing a mask even though we were outside hiking. The trail was more crowded than I expected it to be, but compared to pictures of the trail in non-covid times, there was no one there. I thought the sheer number of visitors was the reason for the mask mandate until we arrived at the tunnel.
As you can see from the picture above, the tunnel is quite narrow . The tunnel is so narrow that it is necessary to turn sideways to pass anyone. The passage is less well lit than this picture portrays or perhaps it just feels darker when entering from bright daylight. Regardless of the lighting, this narrow throughway is probably why everyone was required to wear a mask!
The hiking surface to the summit of Diamond Head is combination of old lava flow, concrete paths, concrete steps and a tunnel. This isn’t a difficult walk, but it is an interesting one and the views are worth the time and effort.
My pictures failed to convey the perfect circle of the Diamond Head crater, but Tim (#kitesurfingspud) posted an amazing picture he took of the crater the same day we were there hiking it. When I reached out to Tim, he very graciously allowed me to use his picture so you can see what a truly spectacular formation Diamond Head is. Thank you, Tim!!!
If the Instagram name #kitesurfingspud seems familiar, it might be because Tim is the person who captured the awesome footage of TTR sailing in Kaneohe Bay! Check out his Instagram as Tim has an excellent eye and his photos are stunning!
From the summit we were able to see the Diamond Head Lighthouse. It is so hard to believe that we toured that lighthouse back in June! When we set sail for Hawaii from Mexico in March 2020, we never expected we would be in Hawaii 9 months later. But we are very lucky to be where we are and we know there is much more of Hawaii for us to explore. We are surprised, but we have not complaints and we are very grateful for the new friends here who have made us feel so welcome.
As always, thanks for stopping by to read our blog! Your comments are always welcome. We wish you a Mele Kelikimaka (Merry Christmas) and we pray you have a happy and healthy 2021!
Suppose you sailed to Maui to find a safe haven during the coronavirus and realized that four people you knew from college lived on Maui. Suppose the number of COVID cases in Maui was a total of six on the whole island. Suppose the restrictions for gatherings had been lifted and the restrictions for inter-island travel had been lifted.
Would you invite those friends to spend a week with you sailing around some of the Hawaiian Islands? Well, that is exactly what we did last week.
Dave, Gloria, Dave and Nikki agreed to pack a few clothes and hop on TTR at Mala Wharf in Lahina. We upped anchor around 10:00 a.m. and initially motor sailed toward Lanai because the wind was very light. Once we turned along the southern side of Lania, we had a bit of wind and finished with a downwind sail to Shark Fin Cove.
Fortunately Frank had the coordinates for a mooring ball at the cove and after a bit of hunting, we spotted the ball and were able to secure Ticket to Ride in a lovely place. Although the area doesn’t look protected, there was a rock outcropping to protect the boat from swells. Plus the weather was very mild.
Shark Fin is a rock that protrudes from the ocean and looks like a shark’s fin. It is an excellent place to snorkel with an interesting rock formation underwater that attracts marine life. Some of us swam from TTR to Shark Fin to get in some exercise as well as check out the fish. Others took the dinghy over to Shark Fin and snorkeled from it.
We spent two nights at Shark Fin Cove. TTR was moored in about 30 feet of extremely clear water and the fish were so plentiful it was like floating in an aquarium! There was a small sea cave within swimming distance and several rocks that made snorkeling entertaining as well as refreshing. Early mornings were calm enough to explore on the stand up paddle boards.
Cruisers know that sometimes there are maintenance items that require a quick off-shore motor to clear tanks. This is a picture of Frank enjoying morning java as he waits for us to return in TTR so he can retie us to the mooring ball. Not a bad way to while away some time.
Shark Fin Cove was pretty isolated and we only saw one sailboat that appeared to be doing some day snorkeling tours and one fishing boat. Well, except for the three rock climbers who repelled down the 60′ cliff face, then swam over to say hello…. that was definitely a first! I wish I had a picture of those folks but I was coming back from snorkeling when we saw the climbers.
Our next stop was Honolua Bay, back on Maui. We figured we should stop back at the home island in case Dave, Nikki, Dave or Gloria decided they wanted to jump ship. Happily, everyone wanted to remain for the whole week!
Honolua was our first stop on Maui when we arrived back in April and it remains one of my favorite spots. The bay is wonderfully protected from waves and it is a marine preserve so both above and under water it is beautiful!
One positive aspect of COVID is that the reduction of tourists to Hawaii has lessened the pressure on the reefs. Locals are saying that the coral and fish life is improving quickly in the absence of large numbers of snorkelers and divers. Even compared to when we were in Honolua Bay two months ago, we saw an increase in the number of fish and turtles around the reefs.
We spent a lot of time in the water while in Honolua Bay snorkeling, SUPing, lounging on floats and watching dolphins swim through the bay.
Perhaps the highlight of our visit to Honolua this time was swimming with the dolphins. We saw them playing in the bay and quickly jumped in the dinghy to get closer. Frank and I had grabbed our masks, but unfortunately not a camera. We took turns using the masks and jumping into the water from the dinghy to see the dolphins.
There were probably a dozen dolphins on the surface but underwater there were at least two dozen more. I SO wish I had a photo to share, but at least the memory remains.
Frank and I are very comfortable in the water and didn’t think twice about jumping in to swim with the dolphins, but our friends were slightly hesitant. The look of wonder and excitement on their faces after they did jump in and see the dolphins was priceless. What a joy to share this experience with friends!
After three nights in Honolua Bay, we awakened at first light and sailed to Kaneohe Bay. We sailed along the north side of Molokai Island because the views of the island are very pretty. The wind was lighter than expected and the direction wasn’t quite what was forecasted so we ended up further away from the island than we would have preferred.
The sail from Maui to Oahu took about eight hours in winds of 14-20 knots so it was a very relaxed sail. Unfortunately two of our friends battle sea sickness so they slept most of the way, which is a good way to avoid feeling ill.
Kaneohe Bay is very large and we spent our first night at the Sand Bar. Our time at the Sand Bar included SUPing, swimming, hiking and generally relaxing.
Chinaman’s Hat is a small, sharp rock close to the entrance to Kaneohe Bay which can be “hiked.” However, the hike is really more of a scramble up the side of this steep little island and Dave, Nikki, Frank and I decided to try it. The view was great, but the hike up volcanic rock and dirt is extremely steep and becomes very slippery when it rains.
After just one night at the Sand Bar, we moved TTR to the southwest portion of Kaneohe Bay near the Kaneohe Yacht Club and rented a car so we could take a driving tour of Oahu Island.
We managed to drive most of the island and made a few stops at beaches and scenic overlooks with a stop for lunch sandwiched in between. (See what I did there?)
After eating all of our meals on Ticket to Ride, it was a nice change to eat out while visiting Haleiwa on the North Shore. This week on Ticket to Ride, everyone helped with meal prep and clean up so providing meals on the boat was not difficult. In fact, I would wager the food we ate on board TTR was as good as anything we eat in restaurants; and the view from the boat is unbeatable!
Here are a few more pictures from our day spent driving around Oahu.
I was a little concerned that this lifestyle would be too restrictive or odd and that Dave, Dave, Gloria and Nikki would feel really confined, but happily I didn’t sense that and no one seemed too tired of boat life.
Several times Dave, Gloria, Dave and Nikki mentioned that seeing the islands from the water was a unique experience for them and gave them a new perspective for the islands. Frank and I enjoyed sharing our floating home and perhaps demonstrating that we aren’t completely crazy for choosing to live on a boat.
Even though it has been decades since we have spent time together, these friendships, forged at Texas Christian University, melded as if no time had passed. We never broke stride and everyone interacted as if we had been spending time together consistently for years. Thanks for a great week y’all! TTR seems a bit quiet today without you.
Side Note: Unfortunately, Hawaii is beginning to see a spike in COVID-19 cases and once again restrictions are being put in place to stem the spread. In just a few days, the 14 day quarantine for inter-island travel will be reinstated; at least for air traffic. Luckily, Dave, Nikki, Dave and Gloria returned home before these restrictions were reinstated. We sincerely hope the virus is curtailed in Hawaii before it becomes rampant. In the mean time, Frank and I will exercise greater caution in our social interactions.
Several of the photos in this post were taken by our friends, and Dave S. was especially good at capturing fun shots during the week. Thank you for the pictures.
As always, thank you for stopping by to read our blog. We would love to hear your thoughts about the places we are visiting should you care to make comments below. If you would like to hear from us more often, please check out our FB page or our Instagram.
After several weeks anchored in Kaneohe Bay, waiting for quarantine to finish and some sail maintenance to be completed, we were invited to visit at the Kaneohe Yacht Club.
What a delightful change to be docked at this yacht club. While the Bay is nice, we were almost the only people living on a boat and we had very little interaction with others. Plus the Bay is large and has some considerable fetch so relaxing in very calm water at the Yacht Club is appreciated.
Mae and Tommy chillin’ on TTR.
Tommy and Mae came by in Tommy’s fishing boat while we were anchored in the Bay and we have very much enjoyed getting to know these young people. They have told us about some local places to visit, sailed with us, helped with some rudder work and offered to take us out on their whaler.
KYC has a very active junior sailing program. We see the youngsters heading out on a variety of sailboats that range from tiny Toppers and O’Pen Bics all the way up to Waspz. The kids tack up the harbor right past the bow of TTR with coaches following behind offering instructions.
A Waspz out in Kaneohe Bay.
COVID-19 put the kabosh on casual beer can races at the KYC until a few weeks ago but now they are back in full swing with a few modifications. Crew numbers are limited and instead of starting the race from the bulk-head, the boats take off from their slips and head to the starting line for each appointed class start.
Racers jockeying for position before the race start.
As you can see, the fairway gets pretty tight with all the race boats setting up and bearing off to cross the start line on time. TTR is on the end dock and very close to the rolling start line which is also the finish line.
Spinnakers are deployed before the start line.
Tacking back to slips just past the finish line.
The folks at the Kaneohe Yacht Club have been incredibly friendly and welcoming! We have met so many people that the names are beginning to run together but the overall feeling of kindness and acceptance has been universal.
Last Thursday we had a few folks over to watch the races and share some “pupus” which is what Hawaiians call bite size appetizers. Drinks and conversation flowed freely but we kept a close eye out for the returning race boats.
Looking to see which of their friends is first this week!
Dancing toward the fairway.
Lori invited us to join her and Tony for a walk along the Ulupaina Trail. While the trail was slightly less than four miles, it was often quite steep and the footing was a variety of roots, rocks and pine needles strewn with the spiked round balls of sweet gum trees.
Frank, Tony and Lori paused for a photo in the shade.
The sweet gum balls hidden in the pine needles made the footing a challenge but the majority of the trail was shaded and we had some really nice views.
This would be a perfect reading spot; shady with a lot of birdsong.
In addition to meeting sailors, watching races and taking hikes, I had the opportunity to play tennis twice while at KYC. I admit, my racket was dusty and my strokes quite rusty, but it was really fun to whack a few tennis balls around the court. I am certainly not ready for or in shape for Dallas tennis leagues, but the tennis here was very casual and no one seemed to care about the inconsistency of my shots. I hope it isn’t another five years before I play again!
Our time here at KYC is just about finished which is too bad because we already feel like we ‘belong.’ We truly appreciate the warm welcome here, the opportunity to meet the Kaneohe Yacht Club members and enjoy the ambiance of the club.
A special thank you to Ike for finding a spot for TTR at the yacht club and to Noodle (Bill) and Lori for taking us under their wing and introducing us to so many people!
Thanks for stopping to read our this quick update about what we are doing in Hawaii. We hope you and your family are healthy and well in these unusual times.
Exploring Oahu is not easy without a car, so after we finished our two week inter-island quarantine, we rented an auto and set out to explore several parts of this island. We are having some sail work done and will remain in Kaneohe until that is completed, so Kaneohe is our base of exploration for now.
View from the original road between the leeward and windward sides of Oahu ~ and a stop on the Shaka Tour.
Laura Morrelli told us about a self guided tour app called “Shaka Guide Oahu” which we downloaded and used to explore a bit of the island. In addition, we have driven the shores and checked out a few locations that might be nice to anchor in for a few nights once our sails are back on board.
One morning we set out for Ka’ena Point Reserve. Shellie and Randy of s/v Moondance told us it was a great walk and that they saw some baby albatrosses there, so we decided to drive over and check it out. (Albatrosses are at the end of this post.)
Looking back toward our starting point at that white sand beach in the distance.
We chose to walk from the state park on the south side of Ka’ena Point, but due to COVID-19, the parking lot was closed which added an extra mile each way to our walk. The eight mile round trip hike was flat and hugged the coast line so there was plenty to see as we strolled along.
At one point Frank and I were startled to hear a growl coming from the rocks and we looked sharply thinking there was a monk seal nearby. But actually the noise was from a blow hole we nicknamed “Old Growler.”
Old Growler spraying mist.
Old Growler actually turned out to be two blow holes and Frank was almost sprayed while taking the second video.
Old Growler spitting at Frank
Ka’ena Point Reserve was established in 1983 to protect the natural dune ecosystem. This is one of the last unspoiled dune ecosystems in the main Hawaiian Islands and allows visitors to see what natural dune habitats found in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands look like. In 2011, a large fence, enclosing 49 acres, was installed to prevent vehicular traffic and to keep predators like mongooses, rats, cats and dogs, out of the area. Within the Reserve are monk seals, Laysan Albatrosses and other birds and plants unique to Hawaii.
Monk seals are the only marine mammal that reside only within US Territorial waters and the majority of these endangered seals live in the remote northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Image from Hawaiian Ocean Project
We were lucky enough to see two monk seals; one at the beach at the start of our walk and the other on the rocks at the point. Both were sleeping in the sun and the only movement I saw was a very occasional flipper flick. Visitors are required to keep a distance of 150 feet so I couldn’t get a decent photo.
We also saw some unique plants:
The aptly name Starfish Cactus in bloom.
“Sedeveria” or “Green Rose” grew with abandon throughout the Reserve.
Our friends from the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally know that Frank and I love to stumble upon bubbly pools and when we do, we climb or trek energetically just to submerge ourselves in those waters.
There were several bubbly pool candidates as we walked to the Reserve and on our way back we just had to stop at the one we deemed “the best!”
Perfectly clear water inviting us to cool off.
We had to scramble down some rocks to get to this little pool, but the volcanic rock was rough and not slippery which was helpful. We lounged in the water, which was the perfect temperature, and Frank took pictures of plants and fish under the water.
Four little fishies in this picture.
Pretty quickly the waves grew as the tide came up, and this pool could clearly become rough and dangerous. We had to abandon our bubbly pool when the waves began crashing over the rocks, but it sure was fun and refreshing.
You can see the wave hitting the rocks behind us!
After our hike, we drove to Ko Olina Marina where our friends Dan and Susan of s/v Kini Pōpō and Shellie and Randy of s/v Moondance were meeting us to share dinner and celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary. Of course we stopped for a couple of bottles of bubbly to mark the occasion. It was really great to celebrate our anniversary with an excellent walk and time with special friends! Thank you Moondance for hosting and Kini Pōpō for staying awake after your overnight sail from Maui!
AND NOW, on to the Albatross…..
“At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name.
It ate the food it ne’er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!”
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1798)
Who remembers reading this poem in high school? The Rime is about an old mariner who relates his experiences to a man he happens to stop while walking along a road. I remembered little about this poem except that the sailor had to hang an albatross around his neck.
The albatross was considered an omen of good luck to sailors because it usually indicated the wind was coming up and the sails would soon be filled again. Plus birds were thought to be able to move between the spiritual world and the earthly realm so they were considered supernatural and natural. We could discuss this poem for hours, but it is through the Rime that the albatross became a more complex symbol because Coleridge related the bird to christianity and redemption.
Photo courtesy of All About Birds.
Anyway! Ka’ena Point Reserve is one of the few places where Laysan Albatrosses nest and we wanted to see these mythical birds. We saw many fledglings who still had their downy feathers and were not quite ready to fly away. In the distance we saw one grown bird feeding a fledgling. Parents feed their young a thick, concentrated oil extracted from their prey and regurgitate it into the mouth of the fledgling.
Still a lot of downy feathers on this fledgling.
Surprisingly, the birds were sitting in open areas on the sand, not well hidden and very vulnerable. As gusts of wind came through we watched a few fledglings stand and spread their winds, seemly to get a feeling for just how those wings were supposed to work. One or two took tiny hops with wings spread wide, but they quickly dropped back to a laying position as if a tad bit frightened by the test hop.
Seeing how the albatross was historically important for sailors, I thought I would share a few fun facts about them.
- The Great Albatross has the largest wingspan of any living bird. The wings can span to over 11 feet!
- Albatrosses live long lives. The oldest known is a female, Laysan Albatross named “Wisdom” who is at least 66 years old!
- Albatrosses can fly up to 600 miles without flapping their wings!
- These birds can dance! Take a look at the first 15 seconds of this YouTube video and witness the Laysan Albatrosses courting through dance.
- Albatross take up to two years in the courting process and then they mate for life.
- Depending on the species, Albatrosses fledglings take between 3 and 10 months to fly and once they take off, they “leave land behind for 5 to 10 years until they reach sexual maturity.”
- Parents feed the fledglings until they fly and are so tired at the end that they often wait another two years before reproducing again.
- There are 22 species in the Albatross family.
- Albatrosses eat mostly squid and schooling fish.
- Although considered a good omen by sailors, in literature, the albatross is often used metaphorically to represent a psychological curse or burden.
Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife.
This picture was taken at Midway Atoll, HI. You have to admit that the Laysan Albatross in this pic has really pretty markings.
So there you have it, a few fun facts about Albatrosses. Now I need to go dig out The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and see if I enjoy reading it now for pleasure more than I did as homework in high school.
Anybody want to join me?
Thanks for joining us and reading our blog. If you want to hear from us more often, visit our Facebook page. Stay well and be kind.
Currently Ticket to Ride is anchored in Kaneohe Bay on the island of Oahu, HI.
Choosing to anchor where we did was random, but we have found that sometimes random anchor spots allow us to stumble upon something. Similar to an unexpected find on Martinique way back when, we love it when we happen upon an interesting place that we probably would not have heard about in a guide book. It is sort of like cruising lagniappe! (Lagniappe: something given as a bonus or extra gift.)
Photo credit: Google Maps satellite images
Located on the windward (east) side of Oahu, Kaneohe is the largest estuary in Hawaii and covers about 11,000 acres. Although the opening of Kaneohe is more than 4.5 miles wide, outside of the bay lies the only barrier reef in Hawaii which breaks the ocean swell and provides protection in the bay. Even when the trade winds are blowing outside the bay, the anchorages are very calm, especially in the southern part of the bay. This is particularly nice for us on TTR because the breeze keeps us cool but the boat has very little motion at anchor.
It’s interesting to SUP along the coral that rings the sandy areas.
Meandering through the long channel to get to our anchor spot, we passed several shallow areas of sand and coral. These shallow areas are often right next to the channel and the depth on the reef is ankle deep at low tide, but where the outer coral ring ends the depth immediately drops to 30+ feet.
“The Sandbar” is very popular for family gatherings, kiting and fishing.
Boaters often motor right up onto this sandbar then lay a stern anchor. Unwilling to nose TTR onto the sandbar, we chose to drop anchor a bit off of the bar and SUP to get to the shallows. We were only able to stay at this spot for a night or two.
I read that the Kaneohe area was the most heavily populated part of Oahu during the “pre-contact” era of Hawaii. (Research indicates that pre-contact is considered to be prior to the arrival of Captain James Cook sometime around 1778.)
The fact that Kaneohe is an estuary, which means that one or more fresh water streams or rivers mix into the seawater, is important and was influential in the lives of these Hawaiians.
The mixing of fresh water and seawater creates a brackish water that is perfect for growing algae that nurtures fish. As many as 600 – 800 years ago, native Hawaiians recognized that value of this brackish water and put it to use for loko iʻa kuapā; walled coastal ponds. Below is a picture of the He’eia Fishpond that encloses 88 acres of brackish water.
Photo credit School of Ocean and Earth Science Technology, HI
The He’eia Fishpond wall is about 1.3 miles long and has seven gates; four along the seaward wall and three along the He’eia stream, which allows for controlled mixing of the salt and fresh water to create this brackish enclosure.
One of the seaward gates.
Trapping fish in this brackish enclosure allowed Hawaiians to supplement their food source in an area that naturally developed food for the fish and eliminated the need for a caregiver to feed the fish.
“Ocean fishing is dependent, to a great extent, upon conditions of the ocean and weather. High surf, storms, and other associated weather phenomenon influence and interrupt most fishing practices. Therefore, fishponds provided Hawaiians with a regular supply of fish when ocean fishing was not possible or did not yield sufficient supply (Kelly, 1976),” per the Paepae o Heeia website.
It is amazing to me that hundreds of years ago, these Hawaiians had a back up plan for days when traditional fishing methods did not provide enough food for their people.
A portion of the He’eia Fishpond wall.
As you can see in the picture above, this pond is not built with one wall but two. Each wall is constructed of basalt (volcanic) rock and they are 12 to 15 feet apart. The section between the two walls is filled mostly with coral but also with dirt. The purpose of the two walls is to slow the flow of water and create a base level of water in the pond so that even at low tide there is sufficient water for the fish.
Looking over the wall toward shore where early Hawaiians probably lived.
It is estimated that building this loko iʻa kuapā took two or three years of dedicated work by hundreds or even thousands of residents who passed and stacked rock and coral.
Another example of the seaward gates.
In May 1965 a flood ruined a 200 foot section of the He’eia Fishpond and it went unused until 1988 when Mark Brooks began repairing the wall. In 2001, Paepae o Heeia, a non-profit organization, was established with the express purpose of restoring and caring for the He’eia Fishpond.
Today this historic and innovative walled pond is fully restored and in excellent condition. TTR is anchored about 300 yards from the Fishpond and on calm days we can paddle along the wall and see the waters entering or leaving the gates depending on the tide.
Shallow sand and coral just off the Fishpond wall.
Kaneohe Bay is so large that there are many areas to explore, but until our two week, inter island quarantine is finished, we have to remain anchored here, so we haven’t had a chance to see as much as we would like.
But the Q will end soon and we have no complaints about our location. The views are stunning, the temperatures are very comfortable and in addition to learning about He’eia Fishpond, we are taking care of routine maintenance on TTR.
As always, thank you for stopping by to read our blog. I posted a video of the He’eia Fishpond on our FB page, so be sure to head over there if you want to see the video or hear from us more often.