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Whale Watching Around The World Part 12

Updated on February 25, 2010

There are no less than four excellent museums dedicated to the whale at Lahaina. The Lahaina Whaling Museum on Front Street features antique miniature ships, handcrafted nautical tools, and three rooms of whaling displays. The Whale Center of the Pacific, located in the Whalers Village shopping complex in nearby Ka'anapali Resort, consists of two unique museums that have been telling the whale's tale for 12 years. The Whaler's Village Museum combines exhibits and educational displays about Lahaina's role in whaling history. It also houses Hawaii's most extensive collection of scrimshaw and marine antiques.

The other museum, Hale Kohola (House of the Whale), takes an in-depth look at the biology and physiology of the whale, focusing primarily on the humpback. Highlights are a baby humpback skeleton and the skull of one of the largest humpbacks ever recorded. Each museum has its own theater airing critically acclaimed whaling films throughout the day. Guided tours by marine naturalists are free.

How to Watch

What to Bring

As obvious as it sounds, the most important equipment to bring on any whale-watching trip is your eyes. Continually looking at the horizon can be tiring, but distant spouts are often the first indication that whales are present. Wear polarized sunglasses, even in cloudy weather. These help cut down on the glare from the water so ease observation of whales beneath the surface.

A second prerequisite is a good pair of binoculars. Though many whales are among the largest animals on Earth, they can look like black specks from a couple of miles away. Powerful binoculars allow identification of whales and observation of their behavior from a distance. Make sure the binoculars have a strong neck strap to prevent dropping them into the water in the heat of the moment.

Become familiar with whale behavior before any whale-watching excursion, as explained by this guide. A field guide to whales will also come in handy on an expedition. An important distinction to learn is the shape of individual whale spouts. Because each species has a unique spout, this is the best way to make a preliminary identification of species. Orcas, for instance, have only one blowhole, which produces a relatively low, single plume. Humpbacks, on the other hand, with their paired blowholes, emit a tall, dual spout that tends to billow out like a balloon. It's also helpful to learn profiles of the different species, especially the portion of the dorsal fin or fluke that breaks the surface. Since whales are rarely seen entirely out of the water, positive identification depends on piecing together physical and behavioral clues.

A Calm Stomach

Few people find the transition from dry land to open ocean easy. Though some whale-watching trips may take place entirely on quiet waters, seas that are calm upon departure can later turn rough. Even people who wouldn't ordinarily get seasick can fall victim when standing on a moving boat trying to focus through binoculars. And no, this is not the kind of nausea that a 55 gallon drum full of Gravol is even going to make a dent in!

Continued In Whale Watching Around The World Part 13

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