Mysterious And Rare Blainville’s Beaked Whales Sighted Near Hawaii

The whales spend much of their time at depth, making them difficult to observe, scientists say.

Two mysterious and rarely sighted Blainville’s beaked whales were recently spotted off the Hawaiian coastline, and one wildlife photographer was able to spend nearly a half hour in the water with the elusive cetaceans.

Blainville’s beaked whales are normally a difficult species to find, according to the Huffington Post, yet Hawaii Island photographer Lisa Denning encountered two of the animals last week, on a boat near Kaiwi Point. The whales were uncharacteristically friendly, and remained in the area for 25 minutes, as Denning was able to communicate with the pair, shooting four minutes of video to document the rare animals.

“Typically, they are very shy,” she observed. “You might see them for a few minutes, then they disappear.”

Nevertheless, Denning was able to make eye contact with the whales multiple times. At one point, she was even able to communicate with the whales by slapping her fins against the water’s surface, responding to the same signal from one of the whales, which used its tail.

Resembling obese spinner dolphins, the beaked whales can grow to be as long as 20 feet, weighing in as heavy as 2,300 pounds. They are known to dive to great depths in search of food, capable of going seven times deeper than humpback whales. Since they spend so much of their lives at extreme depths, the beaked whales are difficult to observe. Scientists don’t yet know what the whales’ lifespans are, or what the species’ population is like.

Robin Baird, a research biologist with Cascadia Research Collective, noted that encounters with beaked whales aren’t common in Hawaii. As West Hawaii Today reports, however, the collective has managed to identify a small resident population of Blainville’s beaked whales situated off Hawaii Island. About 120 whales make up the group, which has been primarily encountered off the Kona coast.

Several years ago, two spade-toothed beaked whales washed up on a beach in New Zealand. As the Inquisitr previously reported, the animals, a mother and a calf, were at first thought to be common Gray’s beaked whales, before analysis of their DNA proved that they were of a far rarer species.

The uniqueness of her experience isn’t lost on Denning. Reflecting to KITV, she asserted that the encounter with the beaked whales was a “beautiful experience.”

[Image: Lisa Denning/ Ocean Eyes Photography via the Hawaii Tribune Herald]