Whale of a welcome

KAPAA — It was eight years ago, her first time on Kauai, when Kelly Kelsey made a whale connection.

She and friends were looking out at the ocean, holding hands, praying and singing.

“The minute we started singing, these three whales started jumping in unison and kept going,” she said. 

It was a magical moment.

“After about five minutes, we stopped singing and they stopping jumping,” she said. “I said, ‘I think they heard us.’”

There have been more such moments between Kelsey and the whales, where she would send out a song or even a thought and be rewarded with a tail slap.

“I think, ‘OK, we are definitely connected,’” she said.

That connection was strong Sunday during a welcoming the whale ceremony Sunday afternoon at Kealia Beach lookout. 

The event, organized by Kohola Leo, which means voice of the whales, welcomes the return of the humpback whales from Alaska to spend the winter in Hawaii so they can breed and deliver their babies in warm tropical waters. 

About 100 people, as they gazed out on the ocean on a beautiful blue-skied, warm day, listened to music, poems and stories on the fifth anniversary of the welcoming party “to pay homage to the gentile, majestic giants of the sea.”

“We want to wish them well and a prosperous year to share our love for them together as a group,” said Kalasara Setaysha with Kohola Leo.

Many cried out and cheered when several whales spouted in the distance, one showing its tail.

Others spoke of the meaning of whales in their lives and feeling a love and energy whenever the whales are near. Aweepano Vivian Satow spoke of feeling the whales flying in the night sky, “sending their song into the core of the Earth and back up to the stars.” 

Another man, Mikha’el Sol, breathed deeply and held his hands out before saying, “I am whole and complete, exactly the way I am.”

“It’s a wonderful celebration,” said Tom Teal of Northern California who attended the welcome.

It’s about protecting the whales, too, said Kelsey, co-organizer and founder of the welcoming in its fifth year, keeping them safe from sonar and other negative impacts. She said it’s about giving them a sanctuary in Hawaiian waters.

“Mind, heart and body, we can celebrate them and be mindful of them,” she said. 

That message, she said, is getting through.

 “I feel like people are waking up to the fact we’re all sharing the planet,” Kelsey said.

Sandy Herndon of Kapaa told a story of wanting to swim with whales in the Dominican Republic, but being afraid. 

Finally, she found the courage to wear a vest and float in the waters while others in her group swam farther out toward a mother whale and her baby. 

“It was such a beautiful thing to see, the interaction between the people in the group and the mother and the baby. She was not afraid at all these humans were trying to harm her child. I was just blown away,” Herndon said.

But that was nothing, she said, compared to what happened next.

“That momma left her baby and swam over to where I was and turned and looked at me and then swam back to the child,” she said.

“If I never understood compassion, I got it then. And what I would like to offer to you, is don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. This is 2015. We’ve got a magnificent opportunity as a community to support Terry Lilley (marine biologist in Hanalei), to support the whales and to support ourselves in reaching out and doing whatever it is you think you can’t do, because you can.”



Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or bbuley@thegardenisland.com.


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