Friday, March 02, 2012
Maui - Whales, The Breach
Everyone has seen them. The National Geographic pictures of that huge humpback whale jumping out of the water. The behavior is called a breach. The pictures are golden. You see, it doesn't happen all the time. It happens when you least expect it. Your reaction time has to be instantaneous. Or you have to be lucky enough to be aiming your camera in the right direction and pushing the shutter button at the time that one of these giant creatures decides to show off.
Why do the whales breach? It's a question often asked on the whale watching tours we've been on. The answer? No one knows for sure. It might be part of breeding--a way to communicate male to female or male to male when one fends off another. Perhaps it's a way of knocking off the barnacles that cling to them. Maybe it's a way to express dominance in a competition pod. Or it could be just fun.
The humpback's tale is so strong that it only takes a couple of good swings to propel itself almost all the way out of the water. Midair, the whale turns and plunges back into the water creating quite a splash. (Imagine a large school bus belly slamming.)
Breaching is the most sought after behavior of avid photographers and I was no exception. We managed to catch a little one one day who breached several times. And then on another day a couple of adult males who graced us with their acrobatics. It all happened so fast I only caught one or two good shots out of. . .well let's just say my camera takes multiple shots in sports mode and my finger seemed stuck to the shutter button. Thank goodness for digital!!