NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Locals and visitors to Hawaii's Honolulu Harbor were treated to the rare sighting of whales Thursday, and whale experts got a quick study of the mammals' behavior.
It didn't take long for word to spread that humpback whales had journeyed into the harbor.
"It's truly amazing!" says Luann Bento. "I've lived here all my life, and I've never seen this. Look, they're right there!"
The pair's curious behavior had whale experts interested in their every move.
They rubbed against boats, big and small.
They swam along piers.
"Who knows why? We've had it happen," says NOAA's Marine Mammal response manager for humpback whales in the Hawaiian Islands, Ed Lyman. "You know, in the past, there's been reports of them coming into Honolulu harbor. We've had them going into Nawiliwili harbor, Hilo harbor, Kahului harbor. They do it all the time, and with the increase in numbers, I think we could see this more often."
Lyman says the whales appeared to be in good health, and there could be several scenarios for this "out of habitat" event - perhaps two juveniles on a play date or a yearling traveling with its mother during mating season.
"We have had cases, and again, this is just speculation, where a female has taken whales that are after her, chasing after her, for the right to breed with her, through mooring fields, near boats, almost as if, 'Hey, I'm not...this is not the right timing. Stop chasing me', and used other boats or moorings as a way to get them away from her," explains Lyman.
Whatever the reason, marine experts took the visit very seriously - making sure mariners and spectators kept their distance until the pair swam safely away to another adventure.