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. Fiona

    It appears that the poor whale is turning to look up at the aircraft. Boat strikes are more common than you think. The ocean is vast, and the evidence disappears.

    February 9, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. TrueFax

    I think that the picture it real, however I believe that this whale is suffering from something similar to scoliosis; I doubt that this was a collision.

    Ok me hardies, here's a few things I’d like to say to back up my point.

    1) Mammals natural reaction to serious injury or trauma is shock. Sea mammals die from shock all the time because they're not able to go up to the surface to breath. This is why dolphins that are caught in nets and then released die anyway.

    2) If there was a collision that was powerful enough to put a 90 degree bend in the whale's back it would have killed the whale instantly (and probably torn it in two). If not instantly the soft tissue trauma and bleeding would have killed the animal due course. Please note that you see no blood or soft tissue damage on the whale.

    3) If there was a collision and it literally but an L bend in this whale why is the tail still facing the natural direction, and more to the point if the whale survived shouldn't it be paralyzed and drown?

    This isn’t a healthy whale, but I think it’s a chronic problem not a trauma.

    February 9, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • JimmyD

      There is no way that whale survived its entire life in the ocean like that. He would have been shark food many times over.

      February 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Shirley

    That is just so sad, I hate to see animals suffer, really moreso than humans..reason why? Read some of the above comments. There are too many stupid people and not nearly enough whales in this world.

    February 9, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carmel

      Shirley – you said it best!

      February 9, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • War919

      Maybe you should watch Animal Kingdom, or Planet Earth. Animals are not exactly nice to one another. The violence that lives in most humans is a carry over from being a "natural" part of the food chain. It is a vestigial evolutionary holdover from when we needed violence to survive in the world. To declare humans evil and animals somehow angelic, is absurdity at its finest. It is our very animal nature that spawns the behavior you seem to detest. To believe that we are somehow separate from the world we live in defies logic.

      February 9, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • huggies

      yah shirley. how about we gather up all them dumb folk and feed them to the whales.

      February 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • ummm.....riiiiiiiight......

      Is it me, or did Shirley just illustrate her own point? hmmmmm........

      February 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Roland

    I hope they find a way to euthanize it to end its suffering.

    February 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Denizen Kate

    Mr. Charlebois calls this one of the most disturbing sights he's ever seen, so why is he eager to go back and look for it again? I should think one disturbing sighting would be enough. Let nature take its course for this poor creature, no need to gawk if you can't do anything to help. Seems morbid to me.

    February 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Daniel4829

    Sushi !!!!

    How insensitive was that.

    February 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. blubber lubber

    I've got a plan to put it out of its misery that just might work. I'm currently chartering a boat, and selling seats. There will be room for about a dozen people. We're going to go out and find that poor whale, and when we do, we're going to spend several hours pumping some serious LEAD into it. At the very least the huge amount of blood should attract hungry sharks who can deliver the "coup de grace".

    February 9, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. KWebers

    It's naiive to think that the whale was not skilled enough to get out of the way of an oncoming ship. Collisions and fatalities are far too common, and it's terrible that now that this poor beast is identified that he couldn't be euthanized.
    Man’s best intentions as far as shipping: not so good. The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary pits humpbacks against huge container ships related to Boston. Death by ship strike is no sanctuary.

    February 9, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tyrone

    They should just attach a bunch of c4 explosives to the whale and blow it to kingdom come.... that would be so cool and then he would be out of his misery. That would also spread the meal around and cook it too 🙂

    February 9, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • can't resist

      I'm sure you get this a lot but....

      ya better caaaaallll TYYYROOOOOONE!!!

      sorry..

      February 9, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • huggies

      you toob: Dead Whale + Dynamite = Bad Idea

      February 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jessica

    I think it's shameful that this conversation has turned into an elementary school grammar class lesson, rather than focusing on the issue at hand: the plight of a beautiful and endangered species.

    February 9, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jeff

    Sad.. I think they should either try and capture and fix the whale, or put her down. She/he must be in terrible pain...

    February 9, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Lennie Smalls

    Not sure what disturbs me the most – the outpouring of emotion and demands that we shoudl all do something to help this one suffering whale, or the lack of voices demanding that we should all do something to help the millions of suffering humans.....

    February 9, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • petprofiteer

      ...suffering humans???? Spay and Neuter: there, problem solved!

      February 9, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hugh Jarce

      Because whales are better for this world than we are.

      They live in harmony with it, all we do is destroy. What an incredible world it would be without us in it.

      February 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • 4mercy

      Amen! Help the poor and save our unborn children who never have a chance to see a whale.

      February 9, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kara 78

      Humans have voices and we owe it to the animal kingdom to give them their voices when they cannot speak!

      February 9, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Please

    When is the benefit concert?

    February 9, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Bob

    How can we be so sure the whale didn't break it's back breaching the water? Humans can jump up and down for days, but occasionally people break legs, ankles or their backs in the process of that simple task. How can we eliminate the possibility that it got into a territory/breeding/dominance dispute with another whale that rammed it? Humans normally hit each other with relative little damage such as scratches and bruises, but occasionally body parts get broken.
    I agree that a ship hitting it is likely (that ship would have noticed if not been dammaged itself), but I also think there is a tendency found in modern environmentalism for mankind to be blamed for everything with little or no proof. It's extremely unscientific for a cause that touts science.

    February 9, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. balls

    The point of this is to express your opinion and that is what Justin is doing so to lay off his grammar because grammar has nothing to do with someone opinion. He obviously got his point across if you all understand what he meant so get over yourself and get back to the matter at hand. Which isn't someone's grammar I mean i don't remember seeing "leave a comment just as long as your grammar is ok by everyone else reading it". Nobody is perfect.

    February 9, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
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