USA // Hawaii //

Whale-hunting and whale-watching


Whaling ships first arrived in Hawaii in 1820, the same year as the missionaries – and had an equally dramatic impact. Whales were never actually hunted here, but Hawaii swiftly became the centre of the industry and was such a paradise that up to fifty percent of each crew deserted here, to be replaced by native Hawaiians. Decline came with the Civil War – when many ships were deliberately sunk to blockade Confederate ports – and an 1871 disaster, when 31 vessels lingered in the Arctic too long, became frozen in, and had to be abandoned. Ironically, the waters off western Maui now rate among the world’s best areas for whale-watching and between roughly December and April, humpback whales are often visible from the shore, although whale-watching trips can take you much closer. Operators include the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation (

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