John Malcolm Smith has hundreds of hours of underwater experience digitally capturing images, video and sounds of several species of dolphins and whales over an eight year span. “Astounding” and “humbling” work well for John when describing what his encounters with the dolphins and whales is like.


Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins

The bulk of John’s underwater media library features Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins who swim freely among tourists and locals alike in the warm waters of Hawaii. The Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins often spend mornings traveling in pods down the coast and playing, mating and resting in Hawaii’s sand-bottom bays. These mammals are very social with each other, and it’s not unusual to see different pods traveling together — creating super-pods of several hundred individuals.


Humpback Whales

John had the privilege of experiencing the Humpback Whales who migrate from Alaska to Hawaii during the winter months to birth their ‘little ones’ and fortify them for the return trip in late April/May. You can hear the Humpback vocalizations when you put your head under the surface of the water even though the whale(s) may be thousands of feet away.

John put together a digital audio recording rig that he would swim out from shore during whale season from the coast at Puako, Hawaii. John would remain at the surface with the recorder assembly and lower a hydrophone about 30 or 40 feet to pick up the whale song. This technique yielded several hours of whale song/sounds.

In 2008 John journeyed to the Vava’u Island Group of the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific to experience the Humpback Whales that migrate to Tonga from the Antarctic up close. John took his underwater video rig which has an external hydrophone. The hydrophone connected to an HDV video camera inside the underwater housing. As luck would have it, John was able to hang out — floating above a singing Humpback Whale — for about half and hour on one of his outings. John captured a nice series of photos (see above) from the boat on a different day during this week-long trip to Tonga. Being a big Humpback Whale fan, John returned to the Kingdom of Tonga the following year. This time he traveled to the Ha’apai Island Group, located in the central region of the Kingdom of Tonga, for a three-week adventure – hoping for lots of whale sightings and encounters in the ocean. Unfortunately, the 2009 season saw a big drop in the number of whale sightings and even fewer opportunities for in-water encounters. Nonetheless, the time John spent in Ha’apai was filled with adventure and wonderful experiences.

Work with Cetaceans?

Interested in licensing some dolphin or whale sounds for your project? John is happy to work with you to ensure your project sounds great! Feel free to visit our Contact page where you can send us your questions/feedback. You can also access Malolo Records’ cetacean audio licensing inquiry form to send us more information about your project. Mahalo!