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. Nadia

    How sad! I wish there was something that could be done to ease it's pain.

    February 9, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • jujubeans

      drop aspirins from a chopper

      February 9, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bananaman

    Libs are here pining away for the life of this animal on their way to the abortion clinic

    February 9, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • couldubanydumber?

      REally, I don't believe you could be.

      February 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. tomcat

    Even though it is hard to look at the demise of such an animal, lets be realistic. Marine life can be affected by numerous factors....is the back broken, or just a defect that has gotten worse. Nature has a a way of taking care of the weak and sick. Man does not need to get involved in this plight.

    February 9, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Honoguy

    We should bomb the whale and put it out of its misery... it's probably paralyzed

    February 9, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ithinkthat

    Maybe it's arthritis?

    February 9, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. hannahmontana

    Is it possible, just maybe, that this whale is just looking for sympathy?

    February 9, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rapturus

    If its still alive, kill the poor thing in the most humane way possible. We should NOT let it linger like this when it was humans who caused its injury! Just putting the thing down quicker doesn't mean the natural process of feeding after it is dead can't happen. You people are sick, wanting to let it linger! WOULD YOU WANT A RELATIVE IN THAT CONDITION TO LINGER?!? It can't feed, and it is SUFFERING! It isn't like with my mini dachshund, his back was hurt because of his breed, his back end is paralyzed, but we can keep him in a small crate so he'll be immobile so his back can heal, feed him, and medicate him. If it doesn't heal, we can buy a doggie wheel chair for him, you can't do that for a whale. Captain Ahab is what you people who think it should linger are! SHAME! Jeeze, maybe the whales should've been the dominant species, cause they would not let a human suffer.

    February 9, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. whaley

    I was wondering where my lady went. We were at the beach weeks ago and I thought she met someone else, but now I see her here. So sad...

    February 9, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Great White

    It's probably photoshopped.

    Oh and those people that think humans are the problem please go kill yourself to be part of the solution.

    February 9, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jim Bob

    What a shame! These are such magnificent creatures. I was fishing near there the other day with a buddy of mine and one even got close to the large boat we were on. You don't realize how big they are. When we were leaving for the day, my buddy actually drove the boat right over the whale's back. Thank goodness he seemed okay, because when I looked back he didn't seem angry or anything. Good times....

    February 9, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Martin Harris

      Jim Bob, if that's true, you may have been the one that did this. Just because the whale didn't look angry doesn't mean he wasn't hurt. I hope you feel awful when you read this.

      February 9, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. MSNBC

    In an unrelated story, there seems to be a spike in the shark population. Perhaps they've managed to find a large source of food somewhere....

    February 9, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Shark gang leader

    I didn't happen to notice any location coordinates mentioned in this article, anyone?
    But like as not some other shark gang will beat us to this guy.
    (sighs in resignation, like seeing someone else win the lottery)

    February 9, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Hilo, HI

    Last week a local paper reported a sighting of a young Humpback in distress entangled in tons(?) of fishing net. Boats were asked to report to the Coast Guard if they spotted him/her. The CG has the equipment and is ready to save this endangered marine mammal -probably an excellent training opportunity too. (I was looking for an update when I found this story.)

    As far as the post that Hawaiians noticed an increase in Humpback #s this season....I am worried b/c I think quite the opposite is true. Last week I was talking to a county worker at a Hilo Bay area beach park, "King's Landing/Richardson's, about it. I thought I was watching on 'off days' -or maybe our annual pods were late arriving -but he said he was concerned too that their numbers seem way down this year. I can only report my personal observation, but I've watched them for years (It feeds my soul!) -and something seems off this year.
    After the carnage in the Gulf of Mexico, I fear for the safety and well being of our marine life.
    -and no animal, human or non-human should suffer needlessly, so if this whale here is still alive, I hope a humane euthanasia is possible.

    No animal, human or nonhuman should suffer needlessly.
    I never view standing up for an individual animal, or an entire species, in distress as somehow shorting human suffering. Quite the opposite. Human well-being, on every level, seems directly linked with how the other animals on this planet are faring.

    February 9, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. InsensitiveGuyTwoHundredandFour

    No established method of euthanasia? Load and Fire torpedos 1 and 2!!

    February 9, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. hypocritlibs

    Here we go again.....Some lame excuse of a human being wants to blame this on "Evil" man and his ships.

    Please do not lie and speculate why the whale is this way, until you have the truth and facts!!!!

    February 9, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
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