By Delphine Berbigier

I thought it was a good sign that we started the day with a sighting of a small reef shark right in the harbor, just at sunrise. From the dock, Millie jokingly warned Daniel, who was driving the boat, to not fall in the water. Brenda was getting ready to tie up the Zodiac while Elisa was hosing the trailer. Like a well-oiled machine, everyone knew what they had to do, did it fast, and in no time we were speeding off to the deep waters off of Kauai’s west coast, Dr. Robin Baird behind the wheel. I was invited for two days to join Cascadia Research Collective’s 2014 10-day field project off Kauai, as an extra pair of eyes scanning the water looking for whales and dolphins, and taking notes and photos to document the efforts.

The project is commissioned by the US Navy, which operates the nearby Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) at Barking Sands, “the world’s largest instrumented multi-environmental range capable of supported surface, subsurface, air, and space operations simultaneously.” This means the Navy uses the area for a wide range of different operations and trainings, including the Submarine Commander Course, scheduled for late February. One of the main purposes of the field project is to obtain information on the movements of several species of toothed whales thanks to satellite tags before, during and after that training course.

So we’re out on our little RIB, looking for whales. Clouds melt into pelting rain, and we’re forced to head back to the harbor for lunch without any sighting, apart from a Laysan albatross and a petrel. The weather seems to clear up, and we go out again, northbound. Humpback whales are abundant at this time of the year, and they often give us a false alarm: they are not the whales we’re looking for. Fortunately, we get some help. M3R, part of the Navy’s monitoring program, calls Robin on the radio “We have a pod of beaked whales feeding off of hydrophone 4-5.” The PMRF features 1,100 square miles of instrumented range, which includes over 200 hydrophones. These pick up on the clicks and whistles toothed whales emit to echo-locate and find their prey. Through a process of triangulation, the Navy can obtain a pretty accurate location of a pod, and they send us there. Excitement is in the air . . .

Stay tuned for more in our next installment of the Hawaii Ocean Project Blog!

By Captain Dave

A unique opportunity to discover the magic of our humpback whale guests with a world renowned marine biologist and photographer awaits those who book our very special Maui whale watch on Thursday, February 27th!

The multi talented Flip Nicklin will be onboard Maui’s most stable catamaran, the Kaulana, at 9:45am to share with passengers his 30 years of experience studying, photographing, and filming humpback whales throughout the world. Published in an expansive number of on and offline publications throughout his career (including National Geographic) Flip has seen it all in his many adventures documenting the world’s most graceful mammalian marine life.

Tickets are going fast so book your whale watch with Flip Nicklin now!

By Captain Dave

A few of the great moments recently shared with HOP via Twitter:

Fun, Active Education on a recent HOP whale watch:


Beautiful shot of the underside of a humpback whale taken by one of our favorite collaborators, Flip Nicklin:


The fantastic view from one of our daily boat trips to Molokai:


Not to be forgotten, our always enjoyable dinner cruises:


Our fans are truly the best! For your daily dose of water going awesomeness, follow us on Twitter @HIOceanProject!

Introducing Robin Bisel of the Hawaii Ocean Project:

What do you do for Hawaii Ocean Project?
I inform guests about our direct involvement with research and how they can help support the ongoing effort to understand humpback and other cetacean behavior here in Maui. I act as a steward for ocean conservancy by educating visitors about local ecology.

How long have you been on Maui? What brought you here?
I have lived Maui for 11 months. I have always been fascinated with the ocean and all the wildlife it supports; particularly marine mammals. After earning a degree in marine biology and living on the Big Island for 6 months, I decided to come check out Maui!

What do you  love about your job?
So many things! I absolutely love seeing the humpbacks everyday during the winter. But more than that I love educating the public about Hawaii flora and fauna – breaking misconceptions and affirming information visitors already know. I also love the variety this job has to offer.

Do you have a favorite HOP experience to share?
It’s difficult to come up with just one individual favorite experience as I’ve had so many. But I love sharing whale watching experiences with first timers. It’s also very rewarding to get someone in the water snorkeling who has never swam before. I just love being a part of memorable experiences for passengers.

What’s the best part of your day at work?
The best part of my day is when we’re out on the beautiful flat water looking for whales. Then we see one breach or do something amazing and someone asks me if I ever get tired of this job: To which I reply “absolutely not.”

What do you want people to know about Hawaii Ocean Project?
HOP is a great way to support real, genuine research. I’m out on the boat everyday educating guests about humpback whale and Hawaii ecology. HOP is a way for us to give back to researchers who provide us with all of this useful information. Why is it important to know about whales and other marine life? By learning and understanding these amazing creatures, we can better understand our changing oceans, and therefore our planet. In order to protect our oceans, we must fully understand them.

Mahalo Robin!