The Great Humpback Migration
Before heading to the tropical waters of Hawaii in the winter, Humpback whales live in the cold waters of Alaska. Mostly feeding on krill and plankton, they feast before heading to our warmer waters when the food runs out.
As we don’t have plankton or krill in Maui, it’s clear that they need to get all of their feeding done before heading to our shores. As well as Maui, the humpbacks also head to Japan, Mexico and Baja California in the colder months.
Why Do Humpback Whales Migrate To Hawaii?
As mentioned above, the main reason as to why they migrate to Hawaii is the warm waters. However, that’s not the only reason why they are drawn to our island.
Humpback whales also head to Hawaii to breed and give birth each year. The warm waters of Hawaii help with this process, making it easier for the expectant mothers to birth their calves – far away from the freezing waters of Alaska.
When Humpback whales are born, they lack the extra weight needed to stay alive in the colder water – therefore the waters of Hawaii is an ideal solution.
How Far do Humpback Whales Travel Each Year?
As they make the voyage every year, it’s clear that they retain the memory of how to get to Hawaii. However, one of the main theories as to how they remember their way, is that they have magnetite in their brain. The naturally-occurring magnetite can be used to navigate (almost like a built-in GPS). A scientific marvel, it’s a clever technique that we will never fully understand.
For humans traveling south from Alaska to Maui might initially seem difficult. How can they possibly know the exact route without getting lost along the way?
But for the Humpback whales, it becomes a journey that they complete without any issues – one of the reasons as to why these extraordinary mammals amaze people around the world.
Do The Humpback Whales Have Any Predators?
Another reason as to why the Humpback whales make the Hawaiian waters their home for the winter is the lack of predators. Unlike the colder waters of the north, the shallow waters of Hawaii don’t have any Orcas – the Humpback whales most fearsome predator.
With shallow waters (the channel between Lanai, Molokai and Maui is only 200 ft deep) throughout the islands, you can see why the Humpback whales love them and return each year. However, once the whales head back to the north, they are open to the predators of the open ocean – which includes the Orcas and sharks. They are also in danger from longline debris – a major killer of whale calves every year.
Humpback Whale Breaching: Why Do They Do It?
Nursing with their moms each day throughout the year, they will start to grow an average of one inch every day. Humpback whales’ milk contains an impressive 40% fat, which drank in abundance (they are said to drink up to 100 gallons per day) will ensure that the calf grows big and strong.