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. Simka

    Wow, what's with all the linguistic imperialism?

    February 9, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. zero73

    We could drop a bomb on it. Messy but quick, and will put it out of its misery. Sucks to be that whale.

    February 9, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. lefty shmefty

    personally i think it's michael jackson

    February 9, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meghan

      Oh my god yes. How did you know? BAHAHAHAHAHAHA now thats the best answer.

      February 9, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ks

    This is so awful, I've seen many of these whales-it is not upside down and probably close to death. if not dead. So sad that it is not put down and put out of it's misery.
    I don't think a ship hit it, I have seen those too. Just sad.

    February 9, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rod

      What don't you get. Do you seriously think everything must be put down!! It is being "put down" by mother nature. Trust me, humans do not need to get involved everytime some animal needs it die. They die for a reason and it is all part of the circle of life. Very good chance this whale was born with a defect. Happens all them time in the animal world. Surprising it has lived to this size. People like you act like this is the end of the world but then approve of late term abortion! Absolutely unbelievable!!! I just don't get it!!

      February 9, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Harvey Wallbanger

    I am wondering if all of the noise we are putting in the ocean has finally reached a level high enough to interfere with the whales' abilities to communicate and echo locate. Assuming this is the case and the injury was caused by a ship, we can expect more incidents like this.

    Also, there could very well be other whales that have been severely injured by our activities. This may be the first such example identified.

    February 9, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alice

      You do realize how big the ocean is right? There is no way we could be interfering with their communication. Even if we were, then so would the noise from storms, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. Our noise output is minuscule. We are tiny, compared to the ocean.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. You Never Know

    This whale could have been caught by fellow pod members molesting little pre-teen whales and justice is being served.

    February 9, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. s1owens

    Uhmmm. How do they know its not a birth defect? Oh yea...then it would not be dramatic enough to be news...

    February 9, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • StewieGriffin

      It's not a birth defect. Wild animals with birth defects do notbsurvive to adulthood. It could be a natural, late onset spinal curvature.

      February 20, 2011 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
  8. Christopher Dycha

    Good example of how the "news" makes assumptions when they can't verify. Makes you wonder the level of truth to most everything else we read. Christopher Dycha

    February 9, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rod

    Is this article really that important to people? It is nature. Period. Why all the speculating? It won't solve anything. No one mentions all the good news from this incident. Just think of the 1000's of creatures the carcuss is going to feed. It is somewhat hard for marine life to find food in the vast, deep blue oceans of the world.

    February 9, 2011 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pointless beyond Contempt

      Now let me get this straight...

      The original event was the horribly unfortunate fate of the humpback whale. Now from that I've seen people diverge from politics to hunting, and from religions to humanity, and from starvation to global impact.

      I am just a simple human being, as loathsome as that is, and my opinions I do NOT try and force on people. For those that may hate me for what I type, I can say I accept your angst but that's as far as I'll go. Whatever "rank" we may have in society today does not put weight in our words. It's simply the thoughts and true desires of our minds that truly make us stand out or stand together.

      My opinions, as crude as they may be, are things people should be able to accept, if not ignore.

      1. This whole event was about a whale. Whilst there are SOME subjects you diverged to that may have partial association with the whale, I do not believe everyone had to have heated debates of other irrelevant subjects on this site. If you'd like to talk about something other than whales, I suggest doing it with people who share your interest in the subject, else you WILL receive other opinions from those who would oppose your beliefs. Simply, if you wouldn't want to talk about whales on an event including a whale, perhaps taking the completely off topic subject elsewhere to make it easier for yourself and everyone else to get the responses they may desire.

      February 10, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tuck

    THE WHALE ISN'T UPSIDE DOWN! It appears to be, but they mouth of a humpback is placed high, with the enormous lower jaw. If you don't believe me, Google it. The whale is right-side up, but definitely jacked up.

    February 9, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. morgan painter

    The whale may have been struck in the dark. I doubt it would be visible after sunset. It appears the impact was far back on the tail. If the ship was large enough, it may not have been felt. There would not have been a great deal of resistance from just the tail area.

    Whales are such magnificent creatures. It is sad to see it in such distress, it deserves better than this but nature can be cruel. If sharks detect it, they will begin ripping pieces off and the whale will suffer horribly. It would ease the pain if there was a way to sedate it but that would take one whale load of morphine. Hopefully it will die before the sharks come. Sad to see you go gentle giant.

    February 9, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. isaac

    how come tou can't print this?

    February 9, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
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    February 9, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. george

    Cruise ship? Its been 10 years to the day since the USS Greeneville rammed through the Ehime Maru, killing 9. Is anyone really under the impression that this thing wasn't hit by something coming out of Pearl Harbor? Seriously, what do u see more of speeding around Hawaii, Cruise Liners or USN?

    February 10, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Really?

    I have never been so entertained reading the comments to an article before as much as this one. You would never think a whale article would bring out this incredible level of insanity in people.

    You are all whack jobs. HA!

    February 10, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alice


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