Bubble Net Feeding Of Humpbacks In Alaska

Equipment Info
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Brief Directions





I had noticed when I woke up that morning in July, that is was very overcast and, wondering if this just may be the perfect type of weather to hope for as I prepared for a whale watching excursion in Juneau, Alaska. My heart was racing with excitement as we boarded the vessel, and, left port, and headed out into open waters. the vessel left port and headed out into Auke Bay, in Juneau. The weather was not bad, still overcast and temps in the 50's, but, it felt great. It felt so good to be in the fresh, clean, cool air of Alaska. The first sighting we saw along the way was a group of Pinnipedia or better known as Stellar Sea lions hanging out on a sea buoy apparently just waking up for the day and barking at us for disturbing their peaceful slumber. I chuckled to myself as we zoomed past them and I watched as they seemed to settle down into a restful sleep once again. Then, came the moment where it was time to get ready with the camera, and get up on deck as the captain announced that there was news of a whale sighting not too far away. I was up on deck and poised for action. My dream had finally came true, I finally had seen my first "blow" as it is called from a humpback whale! Its back fin had broke the surface! My camera in hand, and, as I began shooting, there were more and more blows and, then the moment came when I had witnessed my first "bubble-net feeding!. Anywhere from 6 to 10 whales in the group. It was absolutely incredible! Moving in perfect harmony! I was not quick enough to capture the first rising; but, I did get every one after that! While we were waiting for them to come up again for their next feeding, I leaned over the railing of the boat to look down and, righty in front of me a huge amount of bubbles came to the surface, within seconds of this sighting, right off to my left, the whales surfaced and were feeding right beside the boat, and, my heat leapt with joy as I witnessed and captured the moment! The next moment of excitement came when we saw the fins of a mother and her calf come up out of the water. The calf never participated in the bubble net feeding. Perhaps the calf was too young and the maneuver too dangerous for one so young. Even the crew got excited as we were told by the narrator that this type of humpback behavior does not happen that often. Each time they surfaced was just as exciting as the first time. They would flip their flukes, and dive down, and, we would wait patiently. after about 3-4 minutes, the whales would come up way out of the water. It was almost like a dance where all the dancers would come into the middle with their arms and hands up, but, in this case the whales had their huge mouths open, taking in huge amounts of krill through their baleen. It was very impressive. another way to describe it was that the whales looked like a band of brothers; so close, hunting in perfect unison; or, even, synchronized swimmers, moving with such grace as they broke the surface of the water at just the right time and devoured the fish. This so called" bubble-net" feeding that the humpbacks have developed has been described to me as a "turbulent cylinder of bubbles" that the whales create by expelling air through their "blowholes" while the pod is swimming in a circle underneath a school of fish. After circling in a smaller and smaller circles to force the fish into the center, the whales open their mouths to consume all the fish at once. I was also told that this type of behavior is cooperative hunting and involves complex communication and coordination on their part. True intelligence. Another interesting fact that I had learned was that it is estimated that only about 1000 humpbacks know how to work together to do bubble net feeding. It was truly a magnificent behavior to witness; live and in person. I had always seen this type of thing when watching a nature program or documentary on whales, but, to see it live, and, in their true surroundings is an experience I would hope that everyone may get to witness at least once in their lifetime. It was truly unforgettable!

Date Added
December 19, 2014
Date Taken
December 19, 2014