Go to the Pointy End of the Ship

We traveled through Fredrick Sound, a wide body of water that forms a portion of the inside passage of Southeast Alaska. This area is one of the best places in the world to see humpback whales. We would frequently hear “whale on port side” and see a whale breaching

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We would Ooooh and Aaaaah, and those of us with cameras would click, click, click. I wonder if people ever get tired of seeing these 40 to 50 foot water beasts do what nature calls them to do.

Then the captain announced, whales sited ahead – everyone to the pointy end of the boat. We watched as he proceeded ahead, and saw some whales surfacing, saw some sprays in the distance.

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And we saw them slapping the water with their large pectoral fins.

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Then the captain idled the engines and they were all around us, feeding on schools of small fish. I would be watching and photographing in one direction and someone would call my attention to whales in another direction.

The naturalist told us about bubble net feeding, where a group of whales work together by forming a circle under water, and blowing air bubbles as they spiral to the surface. This drives large numbers of small fish toward the surface. The whales are gulpers so they take in a huge amount of water and fish as they lunge to the surface. Their mouths are lined with about 330 pairs of baleen plates that strain out the fish. We saw some bubble-net feeding but I wasn’t able to catch the action.

I am still in awe of what I saw and thrilled with the images I did capture.

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I bet we tracked this pod for close to an hour – an hour of alternating adrenaline rush and a quiet intimacy with life itself.

 

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25 Comments »

    • It was, Sherry. It is hard to describe what it is like to see these wonderful creatures in their own environment, where I am their guest.

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    • Oh yes, Charlie. And I bet you have watched them migrating. I have seen migrating whales, but this was special watching them in their summer feeding grounds.

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