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. Jimmy

    That shark got PWNT!

    February 9, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • SD

      Did you even read the article? It's a whale, not a shark. You got PWNT!

      February 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. George

    On second look, the whale is upside down in the photo which probably means it was already dead and just resurfacing like the article suggests...

    February 9, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • i_bob

      Google pictures of humpback whales. Look at the way the jaw curves. The whale in the picture is not upside down. There's a lot of info out there for you to educate yourself. Making stuff up is not necessary.

      February 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lucy

    A whale was euthanized sometime last year by being blown up with explosives if I recall correctly. It was a very swift way for the creature to die.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. distrubing

    awww, poor thing.

    what's disturbing is to read ignorance on these posts...you can tell who the republicans are on these posts...one's with ignorant comments suggesting that 'cruise ships" are "natural"..morons!

    February 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Prov

      ignorant, like how u automatically say people who call ships 'natural', republicans.. you obviously don't know what the word means. and have no thought process. q(-_-q)

      February 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. lauri

    Call Sarah Palin-I'm sure she be happy to come and blow its brains out.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obot

      You better be nice to President Palin or else you might find your name on a homegrown terrorist list for hate speech soon.

      February 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Ypu are one messed up S.O.B for saying such a comment.

      February 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Clint

    Sushi anyone???

    February 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. George

    Humans need to simply stop.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      I agree, but it will never happen. We seem to have this top of the food chain mentality that tends to trump reason and common sense.

      February 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tim

    Good grief. Who said humans were responsible? Whales get landed on regularly by other whales when they breach.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. MamaMia

    Where is Obama when you ned him.?

    February 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jeff

    That is so sad. I could certainly get behind the government spending some cash to find it and put it out of its mistery.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Soulcatcher

    On a related note a strange probe has entered out solar system and is on its way to our planet...

    ;-)>..._ _ ...

    February 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. GH

    Meanwhile, back at the abortion factory, dozens of real, live human babies died, and no one took a picture for CNN or even cared in any way.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike in Colorado

      Very true, and much sadder than this whale story (as sad as it is).

      February 9, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jim is right

    Everything is created by GOD, and destined to die. You thought the ship was not alive, if only you knew, none of us are actually alive. Awake everyone !!

    February 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Steve

    We need a really big toilet to flush it down. Then we can tell Johnny it went to the big ocean in the sky when he asks.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom Weidermeijer

      It didn't go to live on the farm with Rex???

      February 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. val209

    It is sad to see this but every life and death as a meaning one way or another. By this whale dying it is also providing food for the other creatures of the sea. It is all a part of nature. We don't know the facts. By automatically blaming someone or something is silly. If there was a way to put it out of its misery we should. No one would even know or be commenting on this if there was not a picture.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      "We don't know the facts."

      It's safe to assume it was hit by a ship. I doubt it was involved in a car accident, cage match, or fell down some stairs. It's death was not a natural act as it didn't die from natural causes. People wouldn't say it was a "natural act" if you got hit by a bus.

      February 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
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