Wylder is a 7 year old male humpback whale that was identified off the coast of Maui in the Au’au Channel and named after our son Wylder James (www.wylderjames.com
The Au’au Channel is home to many humpback whales each winter as the whales migrate approximately 3,500 miles from their feeding grounds in Alaskan waters to their mating and birthing grounds in Hawaiian waters. The Hawaiian word “au’au” means “to take a bath” and refers to the generally calmer waters found in this channel that is protected by the islands of Maui to the east, Lanai to the west, Moloka’i to the north, and Kaho’olawe to the south. There is only nine miles between Maui and Lanai and the depth reaches about 108 feet. This is the same Channel that we laid our three year old son Wylder James to rest this summer as over 5,000 flowers floated above from his nation of Warrior’s that supported him and our family on his perseverance against Niemann Pick A Disease.
Pacific Whale Foundation researchers were able to photograph the underside of Wylder’s tail, or flukes. Fluke photographs are important because they allow us to identify individual whales by the coloration patterns and notches along the trailing edge of the flukes. Each humpback whale’s fluke pattern is as unique as a human’s fingerprint.
Wylder the Whale was named through the Name-a-Whale program at Pacific Whale Foundation in memory of Wylder James, age three, whose family has always felt a love for the whales and Maui. My husband Steven and I (Wylder’s parents) had our rehearsal dinner on one of Pacific Whale Foundation’s vessels the night before they were married in 2007. After our son was diagnosed with the metabolic disease Niemann Pick A at 7 months old, which impacts the digestion of lipids, we brought him to Maui so he could experience the islands like they did and fall in love with the island for himself. So in memory of Wylder James, naming a Hawaiian humpback whale just seems…RIGHT!!!
We hope you enjoyed learning about your new whale and that you feel the support of a Nation of Warrior behind you as you run the Boston Marathon this spring for the biggest life we have ever known. Thank you Running for Rare Disease Team for what you are doing, it means so much to families like ours. Remember always … Wylder James Laffoon. With Love and Hope Always, Shannon Laffoon