LIHUE — A boat struck an adult humpback whale Thursday morning along Kauai’s South Shore while heading out on a snorkeling tour.
“It was a freak thing,” said Andrew Evans, owner of Port Allen-based Capt. Andy’s Sailing Adventures.
Evans said the vessel, named “Northern Star,” was traveling east a half mile to a mile offshore of Shipwreck’s Beach when the incident occurred around 9 a.m. Neither the captain nor the lookout crew members were aware the animal was in the vicinity.
“This one kind of came out of nowhere,” Evans said of the whale.
The boat was traveling at a speed of about 10 knots with 44 passengers on board when the animal suddenly surfaced and collided with the forward bow, according to Evans.
He said his captain had no chance of avoiding the animal.
Rick Mahoney of the U.S. Coast Guard in Nawiliwili handled the initial report and said witnesses did not report any blood in the water.
“From the witnesses, the whale did not appear to be injured, but of course that’s hard to tell,” he said.
After reviewing witness statements, Mahoney said it seemed clear that it was a freak occurrence and the captain and crew were not at fault.
“He may have charged the boat, thinking it was a threat,” Mahoney said, adding that the crew reported a lot of whale activity in the surrounding area.
The boat sustained minor damage to the bow but did not take on water, and immediately returned to port following the incident, according to Evans.
Mahoney said one female passenger sustained a minor injury to her ribs. She was reportedly taken to Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital and later released.
Jean Souza, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Kauai programs manager, said it is possible for humpback whales to be submerged for 40 minutes or so before coming up for a breath of air.
In his time with the Coast Guard here, Mahoney has not heard of an incident like this.
“Everybody’s in concurrence,” he said. “It came out of nowhere.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency handling the investigation, did not respond by press time to request seeking comment.