No one knows exactly when humpback whales first began wintering in the warm, shallow waters around the Hawaiian Islands. Narrative reports from whalers document the appearance of these majestic giants in Hawai`i in the 1840's, but little evidence substantiates an earlier presence. But arrive they did, and today the waters around the main Hawaiian Islands of Kaua`i, O`ahu, Hawai`i, Maui, Moloka`i, Lana`i and Kaho`olawe constitute one of the world’s most important habitats for the endangered North Pacific humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). Hawai`i is the only place in the U.S. where humpbacks breed, calve, and nurse their young. Scientists estimate that two-thirds of the entire North Pacific population (approximately 4,000-5,000 whales) migrate to Hawaiian waters each winter. The sanctuary is also home to a fascinating array of marine animals, corals, and plants, some of which are found nowhere else on Earth. This Encyclopedia is meant to provide natural history information, video clips, still images, and additional resources to find more information about the marine life found within the sanctuary. We hope you find this to be a valuable resource.

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