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Off the Kohala coast on the Big Island of Hawaii, Christine Gabriele spots whale 875. The familiar propeller scar on its left side and the shape of its dorsal fin are like a telltale fingerprint. Gabriele, a marine biologist with the Hawaii Marine Mammal Consortium, confirms the whale’s identity against her extensive photo catalog. Both Gabriele and this male humpback have migrated to this Pacific Island from Southeastern Alaska.
In those Alaska summer feeding grounds, Gabriele sees the same 300 or so whales “again and again.” But winter brings more than 10,000 whales to the waters of Hawaii from all over the North Pacific. Spotting 875 is like finding a needle in a haystack.