Friday, March 30, 2001

Humpback whale freed
in waters off Maui

A tour captain and
crew help "Free Willy"
from nylon lines

By Gary Kubota
Maui correspondent

WAILUKU >> Capt. Steven "Kiwini" Hall has a tale bigger than any fishing story -- and this one got away, too.

In waters off South Maui, Hall and his crew rescued a humpback whale as big as a school bus by pulling up hundreds of feet of line along with a buoy that was attached to it and cutting the rope.

"We have a whale of a tale to tell," Hall said. "It definitely was a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Hall was aboard the catamaran Pride of Maui after a snorkeling and scuba tour with 35 passengers Wednesday afternoon, when he saw the adult whale caught in the line about two miles north of Molokini Island.

Hall said he remembered hearing a Coast Guard notice advising boaters to be aware of the distressed whale and to help it if possible.

As he approached within 200 feet of the whale, Hall saw the line around the whale's tail.

"The line was just sitting there, and he dove down," he said.

Hall instructed crew members Tim Burdeshaw and Gadiel Hottenstein to pull the buoy and hundreds of feet of line aboard the boat. As Hottenstein pulled the line aboard, Burdeshaw cut it into pieces.

Hall said the line was an inch thick and made of nylon, and the buoy was unlike any he has seen in Hawaii waters.

The whale began to dive. As the line became taut, Burdeshaw cut it for the last time.

Hall said the crew pulled aboard about 250 feet of line, and there was about 50 feet of line left on the whale as it swam away.

He said the rope was looser without the buoy, and the whale might be able free itself from the line. "It didn't look like it was cut into him," Hall said.

Hall said passengers didn't seem to mind the departure from the normal tour route.

"A couple of them said that it was a good thing we did, stopping and helping the whale out," he said.

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