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.

Post by:
Filed under: Animals • Environment • Hawaii • Whales
soundoff (615 Responses)
  1. In America

    Tiff, sonar is designed to locate large, moving objects under the water. If this whale was hit by an oceanliner it would have been swimming above sonar and below radar, roughly a band of space up close of about 20 feet close in to the boat.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JLS

    Let's ask the whale.
    "Hey whale, how did you hurt your back? Was it a ship? Or did you get into a fight with another whale? Does it hurt? Do you want to be put down? Or do you just want to be left alone?"
    "Say hi to ya mahm for me..."

    February 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. general

    You guys are insisting installing sonar on supertankers to avoid whales. lol you guys are funny. Ships can't stop or turn on a dime. Next well be putting people in jail for running over squirrels with there car. NATURE happens

    February 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. hmmm

    if you believe in nature, then just let it die accordingly. if you believe in compassion, you try to end it's misery. if you believe in god, then you say he gives man the tools to do harm (the boat that hit him) and to do good (some sort of humane euthanasia plan and/or cameras to show the world other creatures and their plight for awareness and compassion) and if you're a scientist, then for further research to help the species in the future. no down side here, except the pain and suffering of another creature.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. GS

    All this talk about forcing every ship on the planet to have some kind of whale early-warning system installed is preposterous. What next? Force everyone to install the same device on their cars so no more dogs or squirrels get run over? Come on, think about it realistically.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kacy

    I think it's better to let it die as nature intends. Like the article says, a large, dying whale like that will feed many sharks and probably a zillion more little critters.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. NotOurFault

    Why do we all assume that the whale's injuries were caused by humans? No where in the article does any evidence indicate that it was caused by humans, only speculations and assumptions. The whale just could of easliy got beat up by another whale, because was playing with his blow hole too much. Ever think of that. Stupid

    February 9, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Emmersome Bigguns

    I blame Sarah Palen!

    February 9, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • cj

      you should probably spell her name right if your going to blame her.

      February 9, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emmersome Bigguns

      It's called humor. Sometimes spelling a name incorrectly highlights that.
      Your welcome. See that, that's how it works. I spelled it "your" not "you're".

      February 9, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Collin

    I hate to say it but maybe if they find it they should just put it down, unless there is some way they can fix it. One thing is for sure that is a sad story.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Whale Slayer

    That is a lot of lamp oil going to waste.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • cj

      I'm with you

      February 9, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. sehrish

    This is pretty sad to look at. I cant even imagine the pain that whale is going through..I wish they could put it out of its misery. Whats worse is that humans are the ones doing this. How can people be so heartless?!?!

    February 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • AceRyder

      What's heartless about this? You think some container ship intentionally aimed for the whale?

      February 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Master_Kush

    Ban all martime ships IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!

    February 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. kayaker247

    whale scientists are probably racing toward the scene, no doubt. this is very sad tho. I hope this whale will not die in vein if the scientist can find out what happened and help to prevent it from happening in the future. For the purpose of study and education, finding a complete, in tact humpback whale in shallow water may be more of a blessing than a curse.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom Weidermeijer

      Are you serious?

      We know where humpbacks breed, calve, migrate and feed.

      No one is going to look for this whale, unless they want to put a few bullets in it to put it out of its misery.

      February 9, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. tina

    I know it would be wrong to try and put the animal out of it's mssory, but there has to be something that could kill the anamil so it would not have to suffer any more than it already has.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom Weidermeijer

      I'm sorry... but isn't that the definition of putting him out of his misery?

      February 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. In America

    NotOurFault – Propose a different plausable, rational, realistic cause for this whales broken back! Maybe people would give you some credit for actual thought. But if you run in the room screaming "I didn't do it" at the scene of a crime, and run out again, who do you think authorities WON'T believe?

    February 9, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • NotOurFault

      Is Godzilla a different plausable, rational, realistic cause for this whales broken back!

      February 9, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16