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Trails for whales

April 25, 2012

It is the end of the season when winter visitors make their way home to summer residences. Like humans, larger sized visitors congregate in warmer places to escape the chill of colder climates. These regular seasonal visitors to Hawaii are the Humpback whales.

Humpback whales inhabit near shore locations in the Pacific Ocean. Their migrations follow ancient whale trails from the northern Pacific summer feeding grounds to warmer birthing and breeding grounds close to Japan, Mexico and Hawaii. Very little is known of the routes they take.  But just like humans, the knowledge is passed on to the next generation so the young ones know the way back.

It is interesting that there are few Hawaiian chants or stories about these creatures. One wonders why their presence in Hawaii was not articulated in the oral traditions of Hawaii more frequently. Could it be that the humpback whales are just recent arrivals to the islands? Nevertheless, these gentle giants grace Hawaiian waters between October and April.  Since part of the population of whales is born here, maybe we should consider them to be “Hawaiian”.

At a 2012 gathering in Hawaii of indigenous elders, mention was made of the ecological changes occurring in their homelands. Local fishermen, who have been out of the oceans near Hawaii over the last twenty years, have observed a decrease in numbers and gatherings of whales. Others have taken notice that the whales are arriving and leaving later, sometimes staying over the summer.

Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail on the island of Hawaii shares offshore waters with the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.  Water trails have been used by animals and man for hundreds of years.  Polynesians and other people arrived here in Hawaii from places across the vast Pacific expanse following blue or water trails. Caring for land trails is easy for terrestrial creatures like us but the challenge is to also be good stewards of blue trails. Our actions affect components and creatures in ecosystems because we are all connected to each other by a trail.

For more about whale sightings from Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail,

One Comment leave one →
  1. Stephen Melinger permalink
    April 30, 2012 5:51 am

    It is interesting that the migration routes are assumed to be passed on from one generation of whales to the next. This may be wishful thinking. While whales have a language it is presumptuous to think they could relay directions to their offspring. More likely movements such as the dance performed by bees suggest directions as well as an internal compass such as that believed to be used by bird species.

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