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A year tends to fly by and before you know it, it's already Christmas time. So much has happened in the past year and so many new memories have been made. We are used to seeing marine life such as humpback whales, sea turtles, and spinner dolphins. However, this year we were blessed to see new creatures and mammals we don't get to see very often, and in some cases ever before! Here are our top 5 encounters of 2022.
#5 Oceanic White Tip
We do not see this magnificent creature often, but when we do it is usually on the Advanced 2 Tank Dive, and we observe with caution. The oceanic whitetip is a species of shark that's often called the "ultimate predator." It is mostly a very slow-moving shark, but when it is attracted to something that appears to be food, its movements become more enthusiastic, and it approaches cautiously but stubbornly. It will retreat and maintain a safe distance if driven off, but always ready to rush in if the opportunity presents itself.
Oceanic whitetips used to be among the three most abundant shark species, but now their populations are dwindling. Decreasing numbers spell trouble for the entire ocean ecosystem—removing a top predator like them can have serious ripple effects on their prey and other ocean creatures in the food web. Previously listed as vulnerable, the Oceanic Whitetip was reclassified to critically endangered in 2019.
#4 Whale Shark
Our awesome volunteers who helped Jacks Diving Locker set up the Ironman Swim Course had a surprise visitor. A huge Whale shark!
On the same beautiful day Captain David toured the Classic 2 Tank Dive guests to see the Ironman Swim course in the Kona Kailua Bay, on their way out to their two tank dives. Again, guests got a wonderful encounter with the Whale shark.
Another sighting we had this year was the Pelagic Magic Dive. This is the 2nd time our crew member, Ross Bronzan has seen this giant on our night dive. He saw one last year around the same time!
“The Whale shark looked massive and swam right under everyone,” he said, “it seemed to be 30ft at least.” - Ross Bronzan
#3 Hawaii Beaked Whale
The beaked whales, Ziphiidae, belong to a family of cetaceans noted for their deep-sea habitat and apparent low abundance. Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are also mammals that belong to the cetacean family.
There are currently 23 recognized species, but several new species have been discovered in recent years. In Hawaiian waters, three species of beaked whales have been sighted - Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris), Blainville's beaked whale (Indopacetus pacificus), and Longman's beaked whale (Indopacetus pacificus).
Beaked whale sightings are rare in Hawaii. However, this year our JDL crew had the rare privilege of seeing these elusive creatures. About 1 mile off Kaiwi Point on our Advanced Dive Trip, the captain and the crew aboard the Napali Kai spotted 8 Blainville whales cruising by.
#2 Pigmy Shark
Instructor Ross Bronzan, again, was out as support, and taking photos on the Pelagic night dive. He spotted something outside of the divers' circle. He swam over to what he thought was going to be a cookie cutter shark. But to his delight and amazement it was a Pygmy shark!
The Pygmy shark is the second smallest shark in the world behind the dwarf lantern shark. Their average length measures 11 inches, roughly the size of a 2L soda bottle.
They are black with white tips on the edges of their fins, and their underbellies have a luminous glow, which they use to attract prey. They prefer living in deep water at depths of 6,500 feet. Because they are so small and live in deep water, they are not a threat to humans.
#1 Pilot Whales
Here in Kona, you can seen pilot whales more often if you go further from the shoreline and local reefs. We do get opportunities on some days to take that cruise on our way to dive sites a bit further away. But what we love about Pilot whales is the history of this magnificent creature, and its connection to Jack’s Diving Locker.
Their speed & diving depths are the reason they are considered the cheetah of the deep. They can remain submerged for over 10 minutes without coming up for air, diving as deep as 1,600 feet—due to their fast-swimming speed and long dive time. Combined with their high intelligence, this explains their unique value to the Navy here in Hawaii.
Jack’s Diving Locker has a unique connection to the pilot whales of Hawaii.
Managing Partner Teri Leicher, grew up around Morgan the pilot whale studied in the 1960s Navy's research Project Deep Ops. Her father, Dr. Wilkins, was a Navy researcher creating technology, like fiber optic cables and equipment, that the Pilot whale would carry down to the sea floor, way deeper than any diver could. It was through this research that we learned the depths, times, and speed of pilot whales. It had never been measured in nature before.
Teri was able to hang with her dad at work, interacting with all the animals and their trainers, including orcas, dolphins, and pigeons.
It was a great year on the ocean with many special encounters.
It's no secret that the waters around Kona are some of the most beautiful in the world and a variety of unique marine life is always passing through. One year we might see more turtles and humpback whales, the next year it might be an abundance of dolphins and manta rays. There's really no way to know what you'll see when you go snorkeling or diving in Kona!
We hope everyone had a great year on the water and in the water. Let’s dive into 2023 with conservation in mind to protect our spectacular ocean creatures like these.