Whales And Whalers Rove Again



"Line! Line!" cried Queequeg, looking over the gunwale. "Him fast! Him fast! Who line him? Who struck? Two fish-one big, one little!"

"What ails ye, man?" cried Starbuck.

"Look-e here," said Queequeg, pointing down.

And there in the Lahaina harbor, lashed to the quay, road the ship.

Splicing their lines last Thursday afternoon, Capt. Frank Cunningham (left), Danny Camacho and Erland Heden prepared for the briny.

And the pursuit of whales.

And porpoise.

No harpoons. No trypots. These men bring 'em back alive.

How? Cunningham tells it like this.

First you head over to the Kona coast off the Big Island. There the bottom drops off very quickly close to shore.

"With the smooth water you can see a long way off. You spot them by the dorsal fin.

"Mostly we catch false killer and pygmy whales-fish with 1,000 pounds body weight."

When you spot a whale, don't charge in. Study him first.

Most feed at night and sleep during the day, so the best time to approach is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Then the fish is on the surface in a semi-conscious state.

Then you approach from the back and try to keep from arousing him.

Meanwhile you've picked out the right net for the animal you're after. And you choose the proper aluminum boom to use with your hoist.

On this boat there are six different booms for specific fish. The whale nets are handmade. Some of the others are store-bought.

Here we get a little vague-so's not to let out trade secrets.

But you net the fish and bring it alongside. Over go two of your crew to attach the stretcher-sling. Next you put the fish in a large box on deck. Then pump in the salt water and head for home.

Easy? Well there is one catch.

Sharks like to follow schools of whales. And this can be a problem. Particulary when you must go over the side to fasten the fish in harness.

So, first you often must kill the sharks and then work fast before their buddies arrive to turn the tables.

But it's a living.

Capt. Cunningham and crew think it's a good one. Cunningham grew up in Southern California. He's a licensed captain with experience on research vessels.

While in Newport, Calif., he build a 33-foot catamaran and cruised the Caribbean for three years.

He's been in these islands since 1952 with his wife, Shirley. They have a son, Race, 13.

Cunningham designed his whaling boat-called Pacific Mammals 1-with the help of Heden and John Wittenburg of Lahaina. Built across from the Sugar Cane Inn in two and one half months-something of a record-the boat was launched Nov. 24.

Designed for the capturing of live whales, the vessel boasts a 26-foot pulpit on the bow for lookout purposes. It was constructed of aluminum by Mobile Marine of Honolulu.

Cunningham estimates the plywood and fiberglass boat cost $50,000 in materials and outfitting.

Thirty-eight feet from stem to stern, the boat draws only two feet, eight inches of water. The beam is 12 feet, four inches. The vessel cruises at 14 and one half knots with its 218-horsepower engine.

On board is a fathometer and a marine radio.

Cunningham's partner-Jerry Macdonald, owner of Buzz's Restaurants in West Maui-provided the necessary financial backing for the mammal-hunting operation.

Together the two men formed Pacific Mammals. The company plans to sell and catch,live, the spotted dolphin, Pacific bottlenose dolphin, Hawaiian spinner dolphin and the rough toothed dolphin, as well as pilot and the false killer whales.

Cunningham has been at the business for others for years. As have the crew members, like David Camacho(right) - who worked for Sea Life Park on Oahu.

They plan to marked their catches in Hawaii, on the mainland, and in England, Italy, South Africa, Japan and Spain.

With their families, they are moving to Kailua-Kona on the Big Island. This will put them near the fishing grounds.

Cunningham said they plan to fish five days a week from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.

"Saturdays and Sundays," he said, "we goof off and go marlin fishing."

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Buck Quayle at The Lahaina Sun

Buck Quayle at the Maui Lahaina Sun bureau circa 1970

Buck Quayle

Reporter/Photographer Buck Quayle in 1971 in Maui with the Cartagenian in the background

Buck Quayle, 2011


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