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. Peter Live!

    The assertion that this whale was injured via the works of man – i.e. being struck by a ship – is at best that – an assertion. It is clear that this whale is wounded; ill; and has been in both conditions for some time.

    This event could have been caused by any variety of trauma (say, a disoriented whale attempting a fast dive into a coral reef).

    Irrespective of that, if the animal is found, we can and should euthanize the creature, if means can be found to do so. The spectre of shooting it with high-velocity rounds – as disgusting as it will look – will end the suffering quickly.

    On a philoshophical note, I find whales (and turtles) far more attractive than their human counterparts, especially congresscritters and lawyers.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bellic

    This sounds terrible, but we may need to kill it. It is sad that this majestic creature is in this poor state, and it might be time to take it out of it's misery.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jim

    How do we know it isn't just a whale deformed from birth?

    February 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jake

    There is no way to ever know, but it was probably another whale that did this, especially if it's a male as humpback whale mating season is winter through spring. So it's likely that it was another whale, not a ship.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tiff

    Don't those big ships have sonar or something so they can see these large mammals in their path? If someone were to hit a dog like that and just take off there would be consequences... how can you NOT know you hit a 40 ton animal? It had to have made a jolt

    February 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • i_bob

      What if the ship that hit it weighed 500,000 tons. That would be like you hitting a small bird with your car. If you weren't looking, you might not even notice.

      February 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      There are no consequences to flattening a dog and taking off. As much as I hate to see a dog hit by a car, you don't need to stop and give it CPR or do anything else. Sorry to inject some common sense here.

      February 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. In America

    Okay everyone, it's time to dry-dock your tankers! Tim, that whale didn't break its back on a trampoline, it didn't do it surfing, rockclimbing, skate boarding, or on fine powder on the slopes in Aspen. What's your theroy Tim, think he did that picking up the morning newspaper on his front steps?

    February 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Captain Crunch

    This poor whale is suffering thanks to a man made ship hitting it and breaking it back. It will die a slow and pain full death, The least they can do is make the process quicker by humanely killing it and end its suffering.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tom

    Serioulsy, get real its a whale.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. NotOurFault

    Stupid Whale should of got out of the way. Why is it always humans that are at fault. People always say how smart these animals are, but apparently it wasn't smart enough to get out of the way. Maybe the whale was committing suicide. I saaw a deer attempt suicide once. He kept running across the street back and forth, I'm telling you that deer was suicidal. Maybe if we had a hotline set up for suicidal animals we wouldn't see things like this happen.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bellic

      Well let's see, there are almost 7 billion of us, and only several hundred of them. Maybe that's why it matters.

      February 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      I was going to say that humans know better but then I realized who was typing to...

      February 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim is right

      You have few $100 bills, but several 100 pennies. what matters?

      February 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bellic

      That's why it matters that this poor whale was hurt, that's what matters. Jim is Right, you are a moron. Go back to the third grade will you please?

      February 9, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • NotOurFault

      Whales are Stupid!

      February 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bellic

      Really? Did you just reply to your own comment with a childish thing such as that? How are whales stupid? By being the largest animals ever on this Earth? For survivng long before you ever have, and living through the hunting down of their own species by idiots such as you?

      February 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • NotOurFault

      Bellic is Stupid!

      February 9, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • PCola Vet

      Sadly dude, you're a reason we humans are stupid. What a ridiculous post, and something a 12 year old would make. Over 6 BILLION people on the planet and what a few hundred or thousadn whales, and how many ships are at sea at any given time? Geez what a da.

      February 9, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • NotOurFault

      PCola Vet is stupid. Coke is better.

      February 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. marina

    Why do politics always have to come into everything?

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

      They don't. At least they don't until stupid people like you bring them into them. And if politics were brought into this, the answer is because everything has an impact on politics. Everything major that ever happens will have some impact on some form of legislation.

      February 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. In America

    Whales need to swim fast to eat since they are plankton eaters, humbacks are anyway. They have baleen to filter out their food. That whale didn't get THAT BIG not eating. (DA)

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

    It's called "The Great Circle of Life" ... deal with it.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bill_92395

    I do not work for the shipping industry. I have had an interest in protecting whales for some time. It has to be pointed out that the shipping industry has worked to soften the sounds that could be disruptive to whales and has in fact moved shipping lanes, which are like highways in the open ocean – they haul butt – to avoid known whale migration paths. They may be able to do better, we all can, but they are not blind to the need to try and protect sea life.

    For those that need to argue, yes, governments are important in creating the laws and policies that "force" companies to be better ... but this is not like a hit and run on the roadside. It is an accident.

    I do believe that the whale should be allowed to live as best it can for the duration of whatever life it has though. People live long lives with bent bodies and a bit of discomfort. Whales are intelligent animals, it will adjust.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • JT

      At last, somebody else thinking for the whale. I'm sure it wants to keep on living as long as it can. Too many people on this site are overly eager to kill it in the name of "humanity"

      February 9, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jim

    Yep, whales are amazing creatures and it is very sad to see one hurt like this. But know what? People are a million times more amazing than any animal and no one seems to give a sh** about the thousands killed in car crashes, pedestrian accidents, wars, starvation, disease etc etc. But if a whale is hurt it warrants headlines on cnn. Go figure

    February 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      Jim I think whales are amazing to. I bet that they would be simply wonderful on rye bread with a little bit of mayo.

      February 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • PCola Vet

      Wow the level of intelligence is just overwhelming today, lol. Maybe this story warrants some attention Jim because oh I don't know, when was the last time you saw a whale with a broken back? There are over 6 billion humans and a few hundred or few thousand whales left in the world, so maybe that is something that garners a bit of attention. Don't worry Jim, soon there will be no more whales in the wild, and you won't have to worry about a story like this anymore.

      February 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Navy Veteran

    They really should find a way to euthanize this whale, and fast! The Navy has killed countless whales over the years from just normal operations. The least they could do is offer to euthanize this whale. They could provide an instantaneous death for the whale.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • AceRyder

      A torpedo would solve this problem.

      February 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • JT

      Is it Navy policy to euthanize injured soliders? Quite frankly I'm getting sick of reading posts clamoring for its execution, just so we don't have to worry about his "suffering". How magnanimous of us, offering to instantaneously take away all that the poor creature has left. Or is there some delusion of a whale afterlife? Let it live as long as it can, it is literally all it will ever have.

      February 9, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
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