Whale Tales

Celebrate humpbacks with weekend of talks, films, live auction, art expo and more at Ritz

Attendees are all smiles at one of many whale watch cruises during last year’s event. Photo courtesy Whale Trust Maui

International whale research organization Whale Trust Maui invites the public to the 11th annual Whale Tales from Friday to Sunday at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua and on the water from morning to sunset Monday.

Over four days, scientists, photographers, filmmakers and conservationists will come together for presentations, whale watches, two films, a live auction and an education/art expo. More than 15,000 people have attended the event since 2006 and have contributed more than $500,000 to whale research around Hawaii.

Presentations are free and open to the public on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons at The Ritz-Carlton. A $20 per-day donation is encouraged to support the various Whale Tales’ beneficiaries.

The education/art expo will run throughout the weekend, featuring hands-on learning opportunities with top local nonprofit organizations, marine photographers, artists and showcases by local businesses.

Benefit whale watches with experts will launch throughout the weekend, with daily cruises Saturday and Sunday and all day on Monday with ocean activities added to the mix. From 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. today, a guided stand-up paddle hosted by Jodelle Fitzwater and Miranda Camp and sponsored by Raw Elements.

Tickets start at $30 per person for whale watches and ocean activities. For specific information and to book your tickets, visit www.whaletales.org.

The event will again feature a special screening of the award-winning film “Humpback Whales” from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday in the Ritz ballroom that stars Whale Trust Maui researchers Meagan Jones and Jim Darling. Then Director Greg MacGillivray will be on hand to present his newest film, “National Parks Adventure,” from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Ritz.

Other Ritz event highlights include presentations and book signings of “Oasis in a Desert Sea: The Lives of Hawaii’s Dolphins and Whales” by Dr. Robin Baird from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday.

A research biologist with Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, Wash., and affiliate faculty member at the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology, Baird has been studying whales and dolphins since 1986. His focus for the last 18 years has been on population structures, habitat use and behavior and assessing human interactions — from fisheries impacts to Navy sonar.

Baird will talk all about the 11 species that live in the oasis of the ocean surrounding the Hawaiian Islands, along with acoustics affecting them, photo-identification, genetics and satellite tagging.

Another presentation and book signing not to miss will be from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday by Hal Whitehead, who holds a doctorate degree and is author of “The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins.”

More Ph.D.s will be in the presenter lineup to lend their expertise, including Rachel Cartwright of the Keiki Kohola Project; Daniel Palacios of the Marine Mammal Institute; Robert Pitman of the U.S. National Marine Fisheries; and Denise Herzing of the Wild Dolphin Project.

“Dr. Herzing has spent more than 30 years studying the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in the Bahamas,” says Whale Trust Maui Director of Events and Communications Dayna Garland. “Her efforts to communicate with them were the focus of her 2013 TED Talk.” 

Other speakers include Anke Kuegler of the University of Hawaii Manoa; Ed Lyman, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary; and Ralph Pace, freelance underwater photographer.

Featured exhibitors are photographers Douglas Hoffman and Marty Wolff, ceramicist Kate Eiffler and digital artist Chelsea Kohl.

Whale Tales is free and open to the public with the above-mentioned suggested donations. Or you may opt to buy a sponsorship package starting at $500. It includes VIP passes, premium seating, private reception tickets and whale watch with Whale Trust Maui’s Flip Nicklin, photographer for National Geographic.

“Whale Tales is a major fundraiser for Whale Trust Maui that helps support critical whale research, education and conservation in Hawaii,” adds Garland.

This year’s presenting sponsors include Makana Aloha Foundation; MacGillivray Freeman Films/One World One Ocean; Pacific Life Foundation; Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic; Bendon Family Foundation and Mark and Judy Ellman of the Mala Ocean Tavern, Honu Seafood & Pizza and Frida’s Mexican Beach House Lahaina family of restaurants.

• What: Today through Sunday, watch films, bid at auction, meet ocean experts, mingle with artists at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua and hop aboard whale watches through Monday. It’s free and open to the public. Donations suggested.

• For more details: Call Whale Trust Maui at 572-5700 or visit www.whaletrust.org.