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. ProperVillain

    Meanwhile, in news that actually matters; More american soldiers die in a seemingly never ending war and our nations finances continue to go down the toilet...but by all means, yes, let's expend our energy trying to figure out how a damn whale was hit....

    February 9, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Shannon

    Poor guy. It's sad to see such a majestic animal in this poor condition, especially knowing that human actions most likely caused it. Some species of whales can live for hundreds of years. This whale could have lived through a lot.

    February 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Yeah but I want to hunt humpbacks in Alaska from a helicopter! It is my 2nd amendment right!

    February 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mohamad

    You are right all of the american invaders will die you people don't learn no one wants you in our land get the hell out you are all going to die you stupid ignorant arrogant pieces of sht

    February 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • prblmslvr

      yeah... you're going to die too. we all do it. some of us just more gracefully than others.... uh hem.

      February 9, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • mohamad is a pedo

      we'll leave the middle east when the oil is gone then you guys can kill each other off until then stfu.

      February 9, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • mmmmmichael

      you know, mohamad, the lord ruined a perfectly good rearend when he put teeth in yours!!!

      February 9, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. prblmslvr

    guys, guys... settle down now. this was obviously a stray ice berg that ran into the poor thing.

    February 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Eric

    Man, if you just read the comments and not the article you would think that the boat was on mission to ram into as many whales as possible... Maybe some of you should consider the fact that accidents happen. Or maybe we should just rid of boats, because we don't want to kill any more whales... and after we do that we can get rid of airplanes so we don't kill any more birds... then we can get rid of cars so we stop running over animals... then we can get rid of bikes so we stop killing bugs.

    Grow up, accidents happen.

    February 9, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. CB in Austin

    Odds are good that the crooked back was caused by disease. I've had fish in my aquarium end up like that and nothing hit them. My elderly mother is all hunched over from osteoporosis. Being old in the wild is very hazardous, it's not like a Walt Disney movie. Once they slow down, another critter gets a meal...

    February 9, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. janet

    how in the WORLD did an article about a dying whale get into women's politics. Troll somewhere else.

    February 9, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Carolyn

    Can the whale be helped? Poor shark.

    February 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Malcolm

    Actually, rather than hunting down the ship that hit the whale, we could be proactive and hold ship avoidance classes for whales.

    February 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Marc

    I can't help but state that this is more than likely an optical illusion. I honestly didn't really read the article so I might be out of line here, But This could easily be an illusion. The waves on the water can play tricks on your eyes easily.

    February 9, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bilbo

    Free Willy!!

    February 9, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Twitter Twaddle

    I hope that when this whale dies that it is carried to heaven by a bunch of little blue birds.

    February 9, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alice

      Haha. I see what you did there.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. T3chsupport

    There's got to be SOME way of humanely euthanizing a whale.

    February 9, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Fred

    We are to be good stewards. Do not allow this animal to suffer, end it's life in as humane a way as possible and show it the respect it deserves. As far as any human interaction at the time of injury? Pure conjecture.

    February 9, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
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