Tag Archives: Big Island

“Whale” You Help Me?

Whale mural, Kapa'a, Kauai.

Whale mural, Kapa’a, Kauai.

I grew up in Kansas, far from any ocean (though I was born within a stone’s throw of the Potomac River in Virginia), so visits to the ocean were rare, and I didn’t see a whale until I was an adult. But once I did, I was hooked. Who can resist the majesty of whales, their power and grace? I admit, I’m a landlubber, so the pull of the traveling the deep, blue sea is lost on me, but I love the creatures that live within it.

Some of my best photos of whales are of murals…I think these are all of Humpback whales. Can someone help me identify them?

Humpack whale, Kona, Hawaii.

Humpack whale, Kona, Hawaii.

I don’t have any good photos of a recent whale watching trip my husband and I took off of the Na Pali coast of Kauai, because my camera had to be put away in a waterproof area because of the 17-foot swells (as tall as the boat!).  Also, I spent at least fifteen minutes with my face in a bucket, my first time ever being seasick, after having been on ocean-going ships dozens of times. The captain warned us that the sea would be rough, but I thought I was an old salt and wouldn’t have any problem. Wrong!  Had an entire pod of whales been performing the Nutcracker Suite within feet of the boat, I wouldn’t and couldn’t have looked up from my beloved bucket.

After my stomach calmed, I did see a month-old humpback whale breaching time after time very close to the boat, it was wonderful! (Sadly, no photo.)  You could tell this baby was having such a fun time.

Humpback whale, Glacier Bay, Alaska.

Humpback whale, Glacier Bay, Alaska.

In addition to being in the right place to see whales, you also need to be there at the right time. One February, we watched Humpback whales off the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.  They winter in Hawaiian waters.  Then that summer, we saw Humpback whales in Glacier Bay of Alaska, their summer feeding grounds.  In January 2013, we looked for whales off of the coast of South Africa, too, but it wasn’t the right season, alas.

Whale Mural in Monterey, California.

Whale Mural in Monterey, California.

Whale Mural in Monterey, California.

Whale Mural in Monterey, California.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth New Hampshire.

Sadly, there are still whalers in modern times.

Whalers Museum in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii.

A List and Photos of Cetaceans: Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises.

“In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex,” which inspired inspired Herman Melville’s novel “Moby-Dick.”

“In the Heart of the Sea” film, directed by Ron Howard, scheduled for release in 2015.

About the novel “Moby-Dick.”

History of Whaling.


Filed under Animals

Why Did The Mongoose Cross The Road?

When it stands, this mongoose looks like its relative the Meerkat.

Years ago in a biology class, I learned about the Indian Mongoose’s introduction to Hawaii (in 1883) as a predator to kill the rats that were thriving in sugar cane fields.  Well, like so many ideas like this, it was a disaster (rabbits to Australia, for example…) The mongooses ate the native birds and their eggs instead.

I’d forgotten about the mongoose  until I recently saw one dashing across the road on the Big Island of Hawaii, where they are pests. As it dashed, it looked like a small ferret.  Every so often, my husband and I would see another one running like mad across the road.  I was never fast enough with my camera.  Finally, I did get a few blurry photographs of a mongoose that seemed to live in the bushes of someone’s yard outside of a botanical garden.  When it stands, it looks like a meerkat, which is one of its relatives.

Standing here, he looks like his relative the Meerkat. He may have a burrow in the yard of this house.

From wikipedia: The 1800s were a huge century for sugar cane, and plantations shot up on many tropical islands including Hawai’i and Jamaica. With sugar cane came rats, attracted to the sweet plant, which ended up causing crop destruction and loss. Attempts were made to introduce the species in Trinidad in 1870 but this failed. A subsequent trial with four males and five females from Calcutta however established in Jamaica in 1872. A paper published by W. B. Espeut that praised the results intrigued Hawaiian plantation owners who, in 1883, brought 72 mongooses from Jamaica to the Hamakua Coast on the Big Island. These were raised and their offspring were shipped to plantations on other islands. Populations that have been introduced to these islands show larger sizes than in their native ranges. They also show genetic diversification due to drift and population isolation.

Only the islands of Lana’i and Kaua’i are (thought to be) free of mongooses. There are two conflicting stories of why Kaua’i was spared. The first is that the residents of Kaua’i were opposed to having the animals on the island and when the ship carrying the offspring reached Kaua’i, the animals were thrown overboard and drowned. A second story tells that on arriving on Kaua’i one of the mongooses bit a dockworker who, in a fit of anger, threw the caged animals into the harbor to drown.

The mongoose introduction did not have the desired effect of rat control. The mongoose hunted birds and bird eggs, threatening many local island species. The mongooses bred prolifically with males becoming sexually mature at 4 months and females producing litters of 2-5 pups a year.

If that isn’t bad enough, Mongooses can carry the infectious bacterial disease Leptospirosis.

About the mongoose.

More about the mongoose.

News report about trapping Mongooses.


This mongoose ran back and forth on this road on the Big Island of Hawaii near Hilo several times. He kept checking to see whether I'd left.


Filed under Animals, Biology, Life, Natural History, Nature, Travel