Hawaii Humpback Whales are mammals belonging to the order Cetacea, which includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises. The common name “Humpback” refers to the high arch of their backs when the whales dive. Hawaiian Humpbacks weigh about 40 tons and can be up to 50 feet in length; females are slightly larger than the males. The average life span of a Humpback is between 30 and 40 years, with the oldest whale on record estimated to be 48 years old.
The Humpback Calf
Helped by its mother, a newborn Humpback instinctively swims to the surface within 10 seconds for its first breath. Within 30 minutes of birth the whale is able to swim, frequently riding in its mother’s slip-stream.
The fluke is the whales’ powerful tail that propels the whale by moving up and down, rather than side to side like a fish. Humpbacks can dive for up to 30 minutes and reach depths of 500-700 feet.
Dolphins and whales extend cooperative behavior to other species; dolphins are frequently seen swimming with whales during and after the birth of a calf.
A Humpback whales’ pectoral fins are up to 15 feet in length with a bone structure similar to that of the human hand and arm.
Hearing without Ears
Whales employ an internal system of air sinuses and bones to detect sound because they lack external ears.
These fleshy knobs are found on the leading edge of a Humpback’s pectoral fins and rostrum (the frontal portion of a whale’s skull). The presence of tubercles on the pectoral fins enables Humpbacks to generate lift at angles 40% steeper than possible with a smooth surface. This effectively allows the whale to make sharper turns without losing its “grip” on the water. Wow!