The Story of Whales, Sharks and Seals in Hawaii
Hawaiian waters host some of the most beautiful sea creatures on earth. From the thriving coral reef to tropical fish, it’s full of dynamic marine creatures. Among these are variety of whales, sharks and seals in Hawaii. Below are some interesting facts you may not have known about these fascinating animals.
Kamohoali’i is the shark god in Hawaiian mythology. Tattoos, guitars and ukuleles have images of sharks as symbols of the ‘aumakua or family protector and guardian spirit. There are 40 different kinds of sharks in Hawaii. The four most common are the sandbar, white-tip reef, scalloped hammerhead and tiger sharks. Whitetip reef sharks are rather small, seldom growing bigger than 5 feet. They can be crafty free-loaders, swimming alongside monk seals to steal their food.
Sharks can get a tan. Hammerhead sharks have been known to drift along the ocean’s surface. As a result, their body will grow darker and serve as a more effective camouflage.
The Hawaiian monk seal is rare endangered species endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. There may be less than 1,300 monk seals in existence. Monk seals get their name from their head’s shape, resembling the haircut of Renaissance era monks. The Hawaiians call them “ilio holo I ka uaua,” meaning dog running through rough water. Most monk seals live in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, feeding on fish and invertebrates on nearby reefs. The seals can dive down to 400 feet in search of food and can remain underwater as long as 20 minutes. The seals can grow up to 7 feet, weighing over 400 pounds and live between 25 to 30 years.
Female Hawaiian monk seals nurse their young for up to 6 weeks without eating anything. Although they prefer areas without humans, you can sometimes see monk seals resting on uncrowded beaches.
Whale watching is such a popular pastime, that it is one of the top visitor activities in Hawaii. The island of Maui is one of the best places to witness a breaching whale. The town of Lahaina in Maui has a long history of whaling and was once the whaling capital of the world. In the town’s center, the Whalers Village Museum displays antiques from this fascinating period.
There are over a dozen whale species that live in Hawaiian waters. But the most common is the humpback whale. Humpback whales grow between 25 to 45 feet, weigh as much as 80,000 pounds and live between 40 to 50 years. These gentle giants vocalize patterns of melodious noises, which the whales sing in their mating areas and feeding grounds. Annually, over 10,000 humpback whales travel 3,500 miles from Alaska to Hawaii from December to April. Here, they breed and then care of their offspring. Humpback whales carry their calves in the womb for almost a year before giving birth. The temperate waters of Hawaii make an ideal location for mating and giving birth.
This was only a brief introduction of whales, sharks and seals in Hawaii. We hope you will try to learn more about these interesting marine creatures on your next trip to the Aloha State.
By: Vacheh Joakim