Moon’s Journey On the Great Humpback Migration

The story of Moon, the injured Humpback who completed the 3,000 mile journey from British Columbia to Hawaii with a paralyzed spine.


Island Dream Productions

Humpback Whale dives underwater off the west coast of Maui where it is spending the winter

Phoebe Aldrich, Contributor

Every year, the humpback whales travel from colder feeding waters to the tropical waters of Mexico and Hawaii, embarking on their epic trans-oceanic migration. The humpback whale has one of the most expansive migrations of any mammal on the planet, traveling as far as 5,000 miles in as short as 36 days. The migration pattern of a whale can be traced to the migration pattern of its mother, a true testament to the power of heritage and genetic instinct in this species. 

North Pacific Humpback Whales arrive in Hawaii to breed and have their babies from November to May. Most whale sightings in this area are from January to May, making February the peak time for humpback whale sightings off the coast of the Hawaiian island chain. 

Moon, a humpback whale who recently migrated from the shores of British Columbia to the west coast of Maui, is a demonstration of the strength of her magnificent species. In early September of 2022, researchers noticed her spine was deformed into an S-shape, likely the result of a boat strike in the middle of her body. In this condition, it was likely extremely difficult to swim and dive for food. 

Shockingly, Moon was spotted in Hawaii on December 1st of 2022, an ocean away from where she was last seen in critical condition. It was apparent that her health had significantly deteriorated, as she had whale lice and emptied fat stores. Although suffering, Moon had made the 3,000-mile journey with a paralyzed tail. Swimming entirely with her pectoral fins, she was essentially doing the breaststroke. 

Side by side comparison of injured humpback whale, Moon before and after her migration to Maui (BC Whales )

Moon hasn’t been seen since December 10th of 2022, and it is likely that her suffering has ended and she passed away. Her journey serves as both a cautionary tale of the threat of humans on the humpback whale population and the miraculous resilience of the species. 

“This migration is part of their culture, their tradition. Moon was probably born in Hawaii. And she just goes back every single year, because that’s what her mother taught her to do, -Something deep within her drove her to just swim across the ocean, using just her pectoral fins, ” says Janie Wray, CEO and lead researcher for BC Whales. 

This whale’s journey is no fluke, it is simply evidence of humpback whales’ resilience. As humans, we must protect this species at all costs.