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. VJ

    sounds like the circle of life to me. This whale lived its life, got into some trouble (or had trouble happen to it) but now will provide for other animals in the sea as food. People need to stop intervening with this process. Some things were just ment to happen and no matter now involved and animal rights groups become in a matter, they can't stop it. This situation may have been entirely accidental and unavoidable, so let other beings try and benefit from it and survive.


    February 9, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Casey

    That poor whale 🙁 What are they going to do about him????

    February 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • JBYJ

      Probably (they) I assume you mean the critters are going to have a feast!

      February 25, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Three Dog Mama

    How horrible. How that poor animal must be suffering. They are such magnificent creatures.

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

    I can't stand to see an animal suffering. Some one please put it down.

    February 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alice

      Did you even read the article?

      February 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • JBYJ

      The sharks are waiting for their turn!

      February 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. observant

    Ummmmmm, anyone realize there are large waves in that precise area...

    To those of you who still dont get it. waves = distortion..........

    Lightbulb go on???? Probably not.....

    February 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. marcia

    Is there any possible way someone can catch him and help him?

    February 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Brickell Princess

    The poor whale must be in so much pain. I hope it's suffering ends soon.

    February 9, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Blue Sister 1

    JT, you need to go to Sea Shepherd.org, and do a little reading. Why don't you search for humpback whales while you are on the site. They do operate everywhere. Gets your story straight then post your thoughts.

    February 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. RIP Whaley

    As posted on a Honolulu Paper's blog an hour ago:

    "Whale vertebra are more than a foot in diameter, linked by thick layers of muscle and tendons. It won't snap if struck by a boat. If a boat struck it that hard it's very likely the boat would be badly damaged, too.

    This whale is dead and decomposing. It's upside-down so it's not able to breathe at all. And waves are making the fins move through the water.

    It could be the whale was sick and died. The distorted tail could be the result of being struck post-mortem. Or it could have been partially consumed by sharks. We can't see the underside and it's likely predators have consumed a significant portion of the carcass and it's starting to collapse.

    A living whale's spine is extremely tough. They're able to breech out of the water and strike with a great deal of force. One recently struck a sailboat during a breech without injuring itself. And the amount of force it generates just to swim means the spinal column has to be very tough to hold up to that much strain.

    Instances of boat impacts have resulted in deep lacerations but not complete disarticulation of the vertebra as seen here."


    February 9, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alice

      Did you read that? Whoever wrote that is beyond stupid. First it says, "It's upside-down so it's not able to breathe at all." And a couple sentences later it states, "We can't see the underside..." So it's upside down, AND we can't see the underside? Not to mention the whale ISN'T even upside-down. I don't believe a word of that article. The author is an idiot.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. shroomdoom

    Good times for the sharks, they're sure to be happy.

    February 9, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jon

    it was the Cloverfield monster!

    February 9, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. michael

    So your teilling me that no one thinks this may be a picture flaw? maybe just becuase of the water?

    February 9, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kara 78

    Look at the positive, eventually this whale might wash up ashore the beaches of Hawaii deceased and provide a great specimen for science and education. We still know very little about whales and it's remains might help preserve the whale species.

    February 9, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Blue Sister 1

    JT, go to Seashepherd.org, and do a little reading. Do a search on humpback whales. Oh, and Sea Shepherd does operate everywhere.

    February 9, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mohamad

    You american ashols only care for a stupid whale while our people are suffering but we don't care now because our Lord Osama will put an end to all of you arrogant infidels

    February 9, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • prblmslvr

      Man, buddy. you have some serious issues along with your... "friends" that want you to kill yourself in the process of killing others. we're talking about whales here. go blow yourself up.

      February 9, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      very nice Mo, I hope the PATRIOT ACT allows homeland to come track you down...you might need a little Gitmo'ing

      February 9, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charlotte

      Mo, your own complete lack of humanity is showing. So – your people are suffering. Nobody denies this. Is this, however, somehow a reason to decide not to feel compassion for another suffering being? How selfish a pig you are.

      February 9, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alice

      Don't get trolled by this guy. He's not for real.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
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