The return to temperate waters places the whales back in the range of their key predator, the Orca. However, adults are well-equipped; the barnacles that line the edges of fins and flukes increase swimming efficiency and also serve as brass knuckles, enhancing their ability to defend themselves, should Orcas attempt to attack.
Caption by Dr. Rachel Cartwright
Photo by John and Dan Cesere
C3 Submerged Photography

Hordes of magnificent creatures have taken over the art gallery at Napa Hall! Caring for Calves: The Art and Science of Understanding Hawaii’s Humpback Whales photography exhibit was unveiled on January 27th featuring breathtaking images of Hawaii’s gentle giants of the sea. The exhibit is just one piece of the Keiki Kohola Project pie, a venture that principal investigator and founder Dr. Rachel Cartwright said is meant to bring “science out of the university and into the real setting.” 

Though the images are awe-inspiring, co-investigator on the project Dr. Blake Gillespie stipulated that, “along with that spoonful of sugar there is some medicine.” Gillespie further explained that the true significance of the project lies not only in the spectacular imagery but also in “the biology of the animals,” and “the management issues that we face as stewards of that population of endangered humpbacks.”

The Keiki Kohola Project is aimed to provide information on the living requirements of mother-calf pairs within nursery waters in the channel between the islands of Maui and Lanai. Cartwright said she expects this exhibit to help “draw from a larger audience,” and “foster an awareness of the issues that face animals in regions like that.”

Students from a variety of disciplines, including Chemistry, have the opportunity to join the team on an annual Spring break research trip to the islands. Gillespie expressed his hopes to “generate really well rounded scientists . . . that are comfortable in a variety of research environments.”

The exhibit will remain in Napa Hall until February 25th; if you haven’t seen it yet, there’s still time! The photos are sincerely incredible.