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GSO and AMA go whale watching

Special to Kalamalama by Han Nee Chong

“Whale! Whale! There’s a whale at 11 o’clock!” somebody screamed from the left side of the Star of Honolulu, Hawai‘i’s largest cruise ship. All of a sudden, everyone crowded to the left side of the cruise ship and gasped....

For most of the 42 students from HPU who went whale watching Feb. 22, it was a first encounter with a real live whale.


We first spotted a cloud of mist--the “blow” that results when the whale exhales at the ocean’s surface. Then, we saw a dorsal fin, and finally its massive tail flapping above the surface.

By law, cruise ships can’t approach within more than 100 yards of a whale, but we were lucky. The humpback came to us, much closer than 100 yards as she swam gently around us, gracefully turning and rolling, putting on a show for all the tourists.

Astonishing, exhilarating, bewildering—no word could really capture our feelings of awe as we had our first encounter with a humpback whale.

“ These mammals are so gigantic, yet so graceful. They are simply amazing,” said Joel S. Warkentin, Jr., an MACOM student who joined the whale-watching cruise, sponsored by the Graduate Student Organization and the American Marketing Association at HPU.

Each winter, between 3,500 and 4,500 humpback whales migrate to Hawai‘i from Alaska waters. While here, they mate, give birth and raise their young.

Humpbacks can be spotted all around O’ahu, but the shores off Diamond Head seem to attract them. We were rewarded with a sighting within an hour of leaving Pier 8 at Aloha Tower. The cruise is a 2.5 hour scenic and historical trip along Waikiki’s coastline.

Every year, from December through March, whale watching ranks tops among Hawai‘i’s activities. Jose Cosials, graduate advisor for GSO said: “The thrill of going on a whale watch is the pure wonder for many students, especially for international students who see them for the first time. Yes, you can see whales on television, but when you encounter a real whale in its natural habitat, living wild and free, that’s a moment you won’t forget. I think it’s a good event that we should organize every year.”

Han Nee Chong is the Executive VP of HPU’s Graduate Student Organization.



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