WHALE OF A TRIP
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December 30, 2011, started off as just another routine
day, tending the longline fishing gear used by the crew of the Honolulu-based fishing
boat Ocean Pearl. The routine was abruptly changed when the
crew and boat were visited by unexpected guests - two magnificent Humpback whales!
Captain William Winn, the boat's main officer, shared with
Carroll Cox his jaw-dropping and impressive story that will forever be etched
in Captain Winn's mind. Here is his
On December 30, at approximately 10 p.m., about 400
miles north of Honolulu, two Humpback whales, a male and female, appeared alongside
Captain Winn's fishing boat, the Ocean
Pearl. The boat's lights revealed silhouetted
figures swimming just below the surface of the water, alongside the boat. To Winn and the crew's surprise, the whales
surfaced within inches of the boat.
The two whales continued swimming alongside the boat, scratching
themselves on the side and bottom as the crew retrieved their fishing
gear. After Captain Winn and the crew
recovered their gear and fish, they drifted around the rest of the night while
they rested. During the night the whales
continued to scratch and rub themselves against the hull of the boat. Captain
Winn believes the whales were using his boat as a scratching post, so to speak,
to remove barnacles from their bodies. When
the whales first appeared, they had very large barnacles on them, but as they
rubbed and scratched, the barnacles disappeared.
The morning after the whales appeared, Captain Winn had
to remove pieces of rope and net that were entangled in his propeller. He put on his fins, snorkel and mask, entered
the water, and started removing the ropes and net. Shortly after starting, he was surprised and
startled when the female whale swam up, within three feet of him, and made eye
contact. Captain Winn describes the
moment as one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences in his 34 years of
life. He also said he was equally as
nervous, and went on to say that, in his 16 years of working in the various
fishing industries of Hawaii, the Pacific, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, he
never heard of anything like this happening.
For approximately five days the two whales traveled with
the Ocean Pearl, from the fishing
grounds, 400 miles north of Honolulu, back to Oahu and right into Honolulu Harbor. Once they reached
Honolulu, Captain Winn delayed entering the harbor to see if the whales would leave the boat.
However, the whales ended up accompanying the boat right into the harbor
and up to the dock where they tied up. Captain
Winn said the whales were on both sides of the boat, still rubbing and
scratching, as he attempted to park.
They even pushed the boat around.
The following day the two whales
were still hanging out in the harbor, giving crowds that came to see them the
sight of a lifetime.
The Ocean Pearl
is approximately 65 feet long, and rather flat on the bottom. Apparently, the whales found it to be a good
way to go.
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