Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Killer Whales in Hawaii? - Transient Orcas of Hawaii
Part IV of The Epic Wildlife Encounters

Continued from the post: Pantropical Spotted Dolphin Mother & Baby - Part III of The Epic Wildlife Encounters.

After the brief but playful pantropical spotted dolphin encounter, we rushed home. We had so much excitement and so many wildlife actions to remember and talk about from this day... Wait a minute! It's not over yet! What could top that blue marlin attack, five mahi mahi actions, tunas, birds, etc.?

At sunset, on the dark horizon of mauka (island side), Naomi spotted something unusual. I looked out and focused my eyes on the horizon at that direction. I screamed, "Orca!!!, Orca??? the killer whales???!!!"

Wow! There were two of them! One of them had its signature long dorsal fin, which was characteristic of a large male orca. Unmistakable. It was the killer whale, Orcinus orca.


Killer whales of Hawaii are called "Transient", and believed to hunt and eat only other marine mammals like dolphins and other smaller whales, no fish at all. The transient killer whale sightings in Hawaii are extremely rare.


transient orca or killer whale, Orcinus orca, male dorsal fin - killer whale sightings in Hawaiian waters are extremely rare, Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

I contacted the renowned cetacean scientist, Robin W. Baird, PhD, and found out that both are actually adult males. He said, "the one with the bent fin has an exceptionally large fin for an open ocean killer whale - other adult males documented in Hawaii have had relatively small dorsal fins (and smaller overall body size) than coastal adult male killer whales." According to Robin, it seems that "open ocean/tropical killer whales are not as strongly sexually dimorphic as are coastal animals." He also said, "we have a very small catalog of killer whales from Hawaii so we'll compare these and see if they happen to match - unlikely though as I think it is a pretty wide-ranging population."


transient orca or killer whale, Orcinus orca, male dorsal fin - killer whale sightings in Hawaiian waters are extremely rare, Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

He had a scientific publication which was published in October of 2006. It was a compilation of data and information about the transient killer whales of Hawaii, titled "Killer Whale in Hawaiian Waters: Information on Population Identity and Feeding Habits." According to this paper, the last recorded encounter was in April of 2004 in Lanai! About 5 years ago! Yes, our encounter was that rare!!! How lucky my friends, Makoto and Naomi, were!

Although it was about 6:30 pm, I wanted to get a shot of them underwater somehow, which I assumed nobody had. Makoto and I quickly got ready but after a couple of blows, they dove and disappeared. I marked my GPS and we patiently waited for another 30 minutes or so, and then, we heard their blows again on the opposite side, but far away about 500 yard out. They spouted several times and then dove again. We waited another 40 minutes or so but they never showed up after that.

What an awesome day!

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