Whales Swim Here To Mate Every Year. But Now, They’re Missing.
Every December, around 10,000 humpback whales make the journey from the cold waters of Alaska to Hawaii. This season, however, December came and went, and the normally crowded waters had noticeably fewer visitors, AP reports.
It's a long journey - nearly 3,000 miles depending on the route - but the whales make it for an important reason: The warm waters surrounding the islands are their selected location to get it on.
It's also where they give birth after the previous year's pregnancies.
"I've been looking for the last month and have not seen one," a veteran whale photographer told West Hawaii Today.
Officials at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary (HIHWMS), a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told AP that although this is unusual behavior, it isn't immediate cause for alarm.
One possibility is that the change is related to this season's El Niño, a weather pattern of irregularly warm water temperatures in the Pacific region.
Another more detailed theory is that the increased population of humpback whales in Alaskan waters has made it more difficult to find food and bulk up before the laborious journey to Hawaii. The whales are simply taking longer to prepare for their trip.
Whatever the reason, the whales have finally started to trickle in past the shores of Hawaii.
"What I'm seeing out there right now I would have expected a month ago," a representative from HIHWMS told AP.
While perplexed scientists await reports on whale counts at the end of January, the unusual behavior serves as a reminder that animals don't always act in predictable ways.
The 10,000 whales have a reason for breaking their ritual this December, and, for now, that reason remains unknown to the humans above the surface.