by Austin Dziki
Yesterday, we got to see something very different from the mellow whales we had been encountering for the past few days. We had been following a whale that Kristin had timed at staying down between 4-6 minutes between surfacing series, which is normal, but each time the whale came up again it was hundreds of meters away. This whale must have really been swimming hard! We were catching up to the whale, getting ready to catch a nice fluke I.D. and move on when we saw another blow not too far from the first. This was curious because it seemed like they were independently heading in the same direction. Then, out of nowhere, a third large adult whale surfaced with the other two! I didn’t think such a large creature would have been able to sneak up on us like that. At this point the three whale’s trajectories had all lined up. We looked ahead and quickly saw the blows of yet another group ahead. The whales we were with began to charge their heads up out of the water and blowing powerfully as they raced towards the group. They even started trumpeting, a sound you might expect to be used as an effect in Jurassic Park. They reached the other group and the race had ended but the energy did not die down. The whales were still breaching the surface, overlapping with each other while thrashing their flukes about. One whale raised its entire pectoral fin out of the water, waved it around in the air, and then slammed it down. I couldn't believe how much control the whale had over its massive pectoral fin, something the size of a boats sail. Since the first whale that brought us to this scene the energy had been building. We believe this was a competitive group in which males are competing to mate with a female, so things understandably get a little tumultuous.
We had been following them for over two hours away from the island and out into deep stormy waters, which forced us to head back in. We did not get to see how this event concluded but it was very interesting to see the beginnings of it unfold.