Hawaii pilot spots badly injured whale
Birds in Paradise owner-flight instructor Gerry Charlebois photographed this mortally injured humpback whale off the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
February 9th, 2011
12:06 PM ET

Hawaii pilot spots badly injured whale

A humpback whale with an apparently broken back has been spotted in waters near Hawaii, a newspaper reports.

Gerry Charlebois, who takes student pilot/tourists for coastal excursions in ultralight aircraft, spotted the injured whale from the air Monday in shallow water near Kauai.

"He wasn't moving his fluke and was just staying near the surface and sort of limping down the coast," he said. "It's kind of sad to see a full adult whale in that condition. ... It's definitely something he's not recovering from."

"This is one of the most disturbing sights I've ever experienced while photographing whales," Charlebois, the owner of Birds in Paradise Flight School, told The Garden Island Newspaper. "It was freaky. The whale was bent in half. Obviously some kind of blunt force trauma on the side. The poor guy was in trouble."

A large boat or ship must have struck the whale, which hasn't been seen since Monday, he said. Humpbacks normally are pretty agile, so this one may have been old or sick an unable to move out of a ship's way, he said.

Birds in Paradise manager Kirk Johnson said Charlebois and others on the flight first thought they'd seen an albino whale, but when they came around to take another look, they could see that it was discolored instead.

Ed Lyman of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary on Maui told the paper the whale appeared to be in poor health - emaciated, shedding skin and surrounded by parasites - and there is no established method for euthanizing a large whale.

These big whales tend to die slowly, Charlebois said. When they do, they sink to the bottom until decomposition gases make them float to the surface, where they attract large numbers of hungry sharks, he said.

"It's amazing to see these 15-foot sharks all feeding on a whale," Charlebois said. "You don't want to be snorkeling around there. You don't want to be in that neighborhood."

Charlebois said he and his three other pilots would look for signs of the injured whale again today.

About 2,000 humpback whales live in the waters off Alaska, and many of them migrate to Hawaii's warm waters between November and May, according to Earthtrust.org. Whale watching is a major part of Hawaii's tourism industry. Adult humpbacks range in size from 35 to 48 feet, and weigh about 1 ton per foot.

Post by:
Filed under: Animals • Environment • Hawaii • Whales
soundoff (615 Responses)
  1. UHM

    Opinion of NOAA scientists in Hawaii appears to be that the whale suffers from scoliosis. FYI, see:


    February 11, 2011 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jodie

    Poor whale:( I hope it doesn't suffer much longer. It looks like that hurts.

    February 11, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  3. >.>

    exploding whale?..

    February 11, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  4. shane

    I just hope it's dead and not suffering.

    February 11, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Common Sense

    In response to previous posts, Yes whales are intelligent, they do at times rest on the surface. You could have an I.Q. of 3000 and still get hit by something. Cruise ships, or even some cargo ships have the ability to travel in excess of 20 knots, A Humpback can not swim as fast. I have seen a Finback Whale, which is one of the fastest whlaes, with its back broken over the bow of a cruise ship coming into The Bay Of Fundy. Photographers were having a field day at the sight, and the crew didn't even know about it until being secured at the terminal. Many ships weighing over 100,000 gross tonnes these days wouldn't feel the slightest thing. Like a loaded tractor trailer hitting a field mouse. Especially if it took place at night. The Captain of the vessel, if that is what happened, should not be held to the highest punishment as it is no fault of his. Also, cruises aren't just for the rich, many families go on cruises for vacations now, you can find many for under $1000. The fact is, whale/ship collisions have occurred since men have been on the water. With increased shipping traffic all over the world this won't be the last time it happens. It is awful to see though.

    February 11, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Love

    If you hunt animals but don't eat them, you're no man at all. People without compassion are hardly above all animal life, many animals even demonstrate compassion.

    More Love & conservation.

    Happy V Day and if you want to get back together with your ex, check out http://www.exRecoverySystem.info

    February 14, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. joe


    February 15, 2011 at 5:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Alice

      Your lack of intelligence nullifies any chance of your sad attempt of a joke being funny.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. syd m.

    how sad, poor whale

    i hope its okay

    reeeeaaaalllllyyyyyy iiitttt"ssss ssssooooooo ttttttttooooooouuuucccchhhiiiinnngggggg!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BOO-HOO!!

    February 16, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  9. Polly

    Maybe it got hit by the airplane that went down off Kauai carrying two people??? ...????

    February 16, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Polly

    Maybe it got hit by the ultralight plane that just went down within 24 hours ago!!!

    February 16, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • JBYJ

      Maybe it swam to close to some dictator!

      February 25, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JBYJ

    Maybe it got to close to one of these "dick tatters"

    February 25, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jessica

    I live in Hawaii and this story has been news for quite some time. CNN get your facts straight. They determined it could not have been a ship. If it had been a ship the whale would have a different apperance. It would have healed up. They think it is more likely Scoliosis/ Some sort of genetic deformity. They determined if he was hit with a ship his body would not retain the shape of what hit him. This whale is not a cartoon. The ship didn't go in and then bounce off leaving the whale to look like a rubber band!

    February 28, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Darren

    This a OLD picture..2 months ago I saw it on the WEB and it said then it was photographed off of California coast not Hawaii. I guess they did'nt GET FAME then (off of a sick whale) so they are tryinh again...that's sick not the whale....

    March 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16