Caption: Not a hammerhead.
The more astute readers will quickly notice that the first picture in an article about finding hammerheads sharks isn’t of a hammerhead at all. In fact, if you came here looking for nothing but picture after picture of hammerheads, you will be quite bored for a while. It seems that I am unintentionally very good at finding every other strange species of shark Hawaii has to offer and quite bad at finding hammerheads.
I started this personal quest out of sheer curiosity. Ten thousand baby hammerheads are born every year inside Kaneohe Bay and yet Hawaiian divers encounter very few adults. This is in stark contrast to other subtropical oceanic islands like Cocos, Galapagos and Espirito Santo where hundreds of adults can be seen in a day. Schools are made up primarily of adult females, each with the largest female in the center. At night, they disperse to feed, traveling along underwater magnetic highways to their nocturnal hunting grounds, only to follow the same route back to their schools by dawn. It just made sense that Hawaii should have similar schools.
Right now you are asking, “why don’t you just look inside Kaneohe Bay?” The answer is simple: I did. While babies abound, it is probable that the adults show up in the summer to drop off their baby-loads and leave. Hammerheads are known to be cannibalistic, so giving birth around your buddies is ill-advised. Besides, Kaneohe Bay is nothing like the open ocean surrounding Cocos or anywhere else that hammerhead adults are famously known to assemble. Visibility in Kaneohe Bay tops maybe 10-15 feet on a good day, so with peaceful adult hammerheads stopping by infrequently and other, larger sharks hanging around constantly, I’m sort of glad I never ran into anything too sizeable inside the bay.
As mentioned above, my other expeditions haven’t been entirely successful, either. The first potential site I tried to look at was a ledge outside of Pearl Harbor that I completely missed due to really vague GPS coordinates. The second trip out to the real ledge produced a bunch of metal junk but nothing of particular interest and certainly no sharks. In fact, the most interesting part of the whole day was after we ascended and found a pair of whales mulling about at the surface within 80 feet of our anchored boat. It was all good fun until one of the whales breached, sending a massive wave breaking over our bow. The whale then proceeded to thrash violently at the surface before launching into a full sprint in our direction mere feet under the surface of the water! Through the whale’s wake I could see the second whale giving chase in some sort of massive competition. You never really grasp how absolutely huge a whale is until you get really close. At 15 feet, our vessel was roughly the size of one of the whale’s flippers. We were at anchor with two whales charging us and completely helpless. I had visions of the whales wildly tossing our boat, and by association us divers, many feet into the air. Fortunately, the leviathans descended before catastrophe ensued. We sheepishly retrieved our anchor and headed back to shore. A week after our whale encounter, my good friend jumped in on that site as part of an unrelated project and ran across a small group of hammerheads cruising the bottom. This pretty much set the tone for the rest of the hunt.
I’ve now made countless dives and put together 5 expeditions to neighboring islands in search of these mysterious animals, only to be misled to myriads of equally fascinating encounters, some of which included hammerheads. I’m still looking, so if you know of any potential areas, I’d love to hear about them (Contact Me). Click a link below to start the misadventures.
Finding hammerheads in Kaneohe Bay wasn't difficult. They were about a foot long and definitely not the adventure I was after.