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.

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Filed under: Animals • Environment • Hawaii • Whales
soundoff (615 Responses)
  1. JJ

    I think the picture is of a whale under a ripple. No broken back just a blurred image and that is why they cannot find it.

    February 9, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ChiliP2000

    They only ASSUME it was hit by a boat, it could have been the one in a million that was born like that and actually lived. Thats my 2 cents

    February 9, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. JohnA.Evans3rd

    Possibly it knew it was dying so it went to the top to let nature take its course whales have built in SONAR it migit have had enough "

    February 9, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Patrick W.

    I hope the Liberals don't blame Sarah Palin for this too. I love looking at all the Liberal Democrats on Thugreport.com they have such a violent bleak future. lol.

    February 9, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. joe

    This is sad. But animals get injured an die every day.

    February 9, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Davey Jones

    Having now seen a conversation about a mortally wounded wale morph from grammar debates, to the financial solvency of whale saving organizations, to abortion rights to a blame game, to age old pencil in water experiments, I am far less concerned about whales or elephants as I am about the state of the human race. If I blew in from outerspace and all I knew about humankind was a quick read of this thread.....I'd think we were a humorless quick to lecture bunch or hypocrites. Those who correct spelling can't spell on their own. THose who lecture about abortion have their facts wrong, and most of you cant take a joke about the whale having fallen down the stairs with the humor it was intended. Its a sad thing to see. It will die. It was no one's fault (As a former Naval officer I can tell you the skill it would take to target a whale and broadside it is tremendous). The few ship/fauna collisions I have seen myself were bloody flesh ripping messes. This is probably a whale suffering from some bizarre defect not some type of massive trauma

    February 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tyrone

      well since the whale is going to die anyways, the navy should use it for 5 inch gun target practice... would help the whale die quicker anyways

      February 9, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      You must've missed the Brokeback Whale comment..it was pretty uplifting and funny

      February 9, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Cdn Jim

    True, grammer and spelling have nothing to do with someone's opinion but it has everything to do with the validity of their opinion. It is an indicator that the individaul my not be able to read well enough to be properly informed about the issues (see Sarah Palin for example.) Or that they get all of their information over the TV from Fox news (see the Tea Party for example.) As to the issue at hand, it's a tragedy for the individual whale, but not for the species. It's a bonus for the sharks and everything lower on the food chain from the surface to the ocean floor. It was probably caused by a boat, that's going to happen unless we stop all sea-going traffic. I'd rather see the hunting of wahles eliminated world-wide. I think that's a more important issue than one whale turning into a floating smorgasbord.

    February 9, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Grumpyoldman60

    Is this for real? A whale got hit by something and died. "It's the circle of life".... Now get back to work!

    February 9, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Russ

    Makes me sad

    February 9, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ousal Dove

    While this may look like a whale with a broken back he is simply waving its tail back and forth... One still photo does not convince me of anything... Show a complete video of this whale swimming!

    February 9, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • twoc ents

      Whales move their tails up and down, fish move side to side.

      February 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Doug

    Unfortunate, to be sure. Guess what. Creatures die. They ALL die. And when they die, they complete the cycle. Life is a cycle. The cycle evolves. One thing that is certain, even when life as we know it ceases to exist on this planet, this planet will still be here.

    It doesn't care if it is inhabited or not. It doesn't care if it has a star or a black hole to orbit around, nor does it care if it falls into one. "Saving the environment" is a selfish human desire for self-preservation. Not to save the planet.

    February 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JT

    There, I finally found the words to describe the vast contradiction in your posts. Got any more earth shattering insults to hurl my way?

    February 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ousal Dove

    Hey, I recognize this particular whale spot pattern! I think this is the one that was ran over by that big black ship, The Sea Shepard!

    February 9, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Art

    To deny the natural process of a dying whale into the cycle of the life of the parasites and sharks that would dine on it, perhaps, would equally deny the shark, that also has as much domain as nature gives it, a freedom to exist in nature! Just because the whale is warm blooded and can sing, does not mean that the shark is any less a passenger on our little spaceship we call Earth.

    February 9, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. theorist

    Personally, I think the Somali pirates are to blame.

    February 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
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