Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Whale Watching

Every winter, humpback whales migrate from Alaska to Hawaii. They spend several months, from December through March, here in the islands. They come to mate and give birth to their babies. They do not eat while they are here.
I could not wait for them to arrive! On December 15, which is the first day the whale watching cruises start to guarantee whale sightings, I dragged my boys up to one of the lighthouse lookouts here to wait and watch. They thought I was crazy, but we saw 4 whales from the shore that day! I think it's amazing that you can see them from the shore...
This weekend, we went on a whale watching cruise to get a bit closer to them. We saw lots of whales, and the naturalist told me that February is even better for sightings. I hear that they come even closer to the shore in Maui, so guess where we'll be next February??
We chose the Star of Honolulu's whale watching trip because they guarantee sightings. If you don't see a whale, you can go back for a free trip to try again. We went on the early morning cruise because it is significantly cheaper.... It turned out to be the right trip because there were many, many whales that morning!
Honolulu as we pulled out of the harbor:
Within minutes of leaving the harbor, we came across these two whales. They stayed by the boat for a long time, and we got quite close.
Waving at us!
We learned that humpback whales are baleen whales, and that all baleen whales have 2 blowholes. Each blowhole is attached to one lung. I had no idea! Toothed whales and dolphins have one blowhole that splits internally to access both lungs.
These people were parasailing and they got to go right over the whales. Oh, I want to do that!
More whales:
Raising a tail as they dive:
This ended up being a pretty sightseeing tour too. Here is the Diamond Head Lighthouse:
After the whale watch, we went walking on Diamond Head Beach for the first time. It turned out to be a truly lucky day for animal sightings because we came across a Hawaiian monk seal sleeping on the beach. These are endangered seals, and I never thought we'd see one while we were here. They mostly stay on the less populated islands.
I'm in love:

This was a wonderful day out! If you come to Hawaii during the winter months, be sure to keep an eye out for whales!
For more field trip posts, visit Live the Adventure!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Bishop Museum

A few weeks ago, it rained and rained and rained. Fortunately, we'd been saving a visit to the Bishop Museum for just this kind of weather. It also helped that we chose one of their frequent 'free admission for military and locals' days. This is a great museum, but they charge for it - $18 for adults and $15 for children.
We thought we'd stay dry, but it turns out that the different types of exhibits are in different buildings around the property. Here is the planetarium viewed through the rain:
The Bishop Museum has something for everyone. The main hall has some natural history animal exhibits. The coolest thing we saw was this life size whale (sorry - I played with my camera settings the whole time, and still the pictures are very dark. Someday, I will take a class!):
The coolest thing about this whale was the fact that one side was open to show the skeleton of the whale. It was great to be able to show Crumpet how similar our skeleton is to a whale's despite the very different lives we live. Their flippers are built just like hands!
Crumpet loves rays so he enjoyed studying this one.
The main hall also houses several floors of exhibits about Hawaiian history, as well as information about other Pacific islands. This is a model of an ancient religious site (heiau) in Hawaii. We saw the ruins of one recently, and it was good to see what it would have looked like in use.
Grass house:
This is a quilt of the Hawaiian flag. When the island was taken over, the people were not allowed to fly their flag, so they created many of these quilts to demonstrate their love of their land and culture.
This is a rotten picture of dancing costumes from another Pacific island.
After we were finished in the main hall, we walked over to the science hall. This was definitely our favorite area. Here is the crazy tunnel into the volcano area:
They have a giant "working" volcano. You can walk inside and learn about volcanos (if you could sit still that long - someone in our group couldn't!):

Or you can walk up to the overlook and push buttons to make the lava at the top bubble. Crumpet loved this.
There was another volcano exhibit where you could compete with other people to create enough pressure in your section of the volcano to make it erupt first:
There was an area to dress up as forest creatures:
Crumpet is a serious snuggler, and he loved this mouse costume:
We learned about the animals that are native to Hawaii, and about problems related to bringing in foreign species. This giant snail eats the smaller snails and causes big problems. We know this because our garden is overrun with snails...
A third building houses the museum's traveling exhibits. Right now, the exhibit is about Creatures of the Deep Sea.
Above, you can see Crumpet with a giant squid. Below is a large wall mural showing depths at which various creatures live:
The museum also has a planetarium. We attended a show where we were taught to navigate by the stars. The Hawaiians used to travel around the Pacific in canoes, using nothing but the stars to guide them. It was very interesting. But our favorite thing in the planetarium was this giant sphere in the entrance. You could change the pictures that were projected on to it, and guess which was Crumpet's favorite? You could make it look like the Death Star from Star Wars... Eventually we had to drag him out so other people could use the machine!
This thing was beautiful, and Crumpet's dad is still scheming about how to get one for our living room... I'm not sure how I feel about that!

The Bishop Museum was a great place to spend an afternoon. We all loved it, and we are looking forward to going back in March, when the traveling exhibit will be about dinosaurs. However, I have to say that I am really looking forward to a day, sometime in the distant future, when I can stop and read the information about the exhibits. Right now, I am dragged from one area to the next and I feel like I miss a lot and don't actually learn much. Still, it is lovely to see the excitement in Crumpet, and so this is fun too!
For more field trip posts, visit Live the Adventure!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Honolulu City Lights

Honolulu lights up for Christmas! The palm trees are lit up and the stores are decorated. The best area to visit is City Hall. The building itself is decorated inside and out, and the whole block is full of displays. There are rides for the kids, and snacks too. We chose to take a trolley ride into town to avoid the hassle of parking, and we knew Crumpet would love it. He did. Look at the joy on his face:
When we got downtown, we were given half an hour to explore. Here is a barefoot Santa doing the shaka with his hand (this is a hand gesture the Hawaiians use to say "Everything is alright dude!" Crumpet has gotten pretty good at it...)

A sea turtle with snacks...
This was a beautiful tree:
Santa was in City Hall, but Crumpet would have nothing to do with him this year:
He would pose with the Bumble though. This is the Abominable Snowman from the Rudolph movie. I love it!
There were people applying glitter tattoos for the kids. The man said that if Crumpet was careful not to scrub the tattoo in the bath, it would last 3-5 days. He has been obsessive about not touching it and reminding us not to scrub it, and this tattoo has been on for 2 weeks! I'm pretty sure he'll have a crazy snowman shaped suntan when it finally comes off!

I love this tree. It looks like it is covered in giant Easter eggs.
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaiian for Merry Christmas.
Next year we will drive in so we have more time to explore. Crumpet didn't get to ride the rides, and I'm sure we missed some displays. We loved this trip though!