A humpback whale gave a vacationing Arizona couple quite a stir recently, as it breached just ahead of their canoe off the coast of the Hawaiian Island of Maui and nearly capsized them, according to the Daily Mail today. The whole event was luckily captured by tourist Laurent Lebihan, and the video has been viewed nearly 420,000 times since being uploaded to Youtube Sunday. The humpback, said to be an adolescent, actually made contact with the vacationers’ boat last Saturday. The video shows that at the moment of impact, the camera jolts and Laurent nearly spills overboard.
Lebihan and his girlfriend were paddling their outrigger canoe a few hundred yards off the coast of Maui with friends when the whale collided with them. Needless to say, it took them quite by surprise.
The video shows Lebihan’s girlfriend calmly taking in stunning vistas as Lebihan himself records the beautiful panoramic surroundings with his camera. Then suddenly, something strikes the canoe, knocks it to one side, before the sight of the giant humpback whale breaking the surface just ahead of them appears.
“We were out whale watching and totally caught off guard”, Lebihan posted beneath the amazing video on Youtube, adding “Good thing it was an adolescent whale and nothing bad happened”.
“Go low and keep a lookout, those are the messages. We are in peak whale season January, February, March, there are a lot of whales out there. Most of these strikes have happened off of Maui”, said Elia Herman, of the National Marine Sanctuary to KOHN2 news.
“Last year we had two confirmed strikes, the year before that 2011 we had five. The highest we ever had is 12, but we are still very early in the season so we've had five confirmed strikes this season”, Herman added.
Since Humpback whales are endangered, Hawaii has strict laws governing whale watching. Anyone who intentionally gets within 100 yards is violating federal law and can be fined up to $50,000.
“This hundred yard rule applies to boats, to people, and there's a one thousand yard approach rule for airplanes. So whether you're in a boat or you're swimming, snorkeling, canoeing, you cannot approach within a hundred yards”, Herman said.
Go Hawaii reports from December to early May the humpback whales call Hawaii home, traveling an incredible 3,000 miles of ocean in less than two-months time. These gentle giants migrate from the gulf of Alaska to Hawaii for breeding and birthing in the islands’ warm and shallow waters.
Weighing up to 45 tons, these mammals can be graceful acrobats. Viewing a humpback whale “breach” the ocean by propelling its 45-foot long body out of the sea is a spectacular event.
Called “kohola” by Hawaiians, humpbacks are treated with great respect. Some Native Hawaiians believe that the kohola is an aumakua, or family guardian. Because the whale calves are actually born in Hawaiian waters, they’re considered kamaaina, or native born.
The humpback is still on the endangered species list, but thanks to conservation efforts, their overall population has been on the rise. Hawaii’s humpback whale population may have doubled over the last ten years.
Roughly 6,000 to 8,000 humpback whales visit Hawaii each year and current studies may increase those estimates.