Just about the time I think there is no way this vacation could get ANY better, it DOES!
So, on Sunday we went on an unexpected whale watch, courtesy of the ferry company that couldn’t hold the ferry for us last week. You can find the details in my post Whales, Whales, Whales.
Today was our paid whale watch with Harv and Marv’s on a small boat with just the 5 of us. I shared the photos from our last whale watch with Captain Brian, but assured him we knew it was a “once in a lifetime” experience, and would enjoy the trip no matter what. I just KNEW it couldn’t possibly be as good.
For one thing, the weather was pretty crummy. It was raining and at times the fog was as thick as pea soup. I was having fits trying to get my camera to focus on anything. As the fog lifted a bit I was able to get a few pictures of the shoreline.
Before too long we came upon a few “Dall Porpoises” something you don’t see out there every day. They were pretty skittish and wouldn’t let us get close enough for decent photos. But, it was something we’d never seen before, so that was pretty cool.
The Captain heard on the radio there were some Orcas nearby so we looked for them with no success.
Then he heard there was a bubble net feeding group nearby, so we set out to see if we could see them.
The remainder of our trip was spent watching them, with results we never could have imagined. I seriously took over 500 photos while Mr. Tattered took videos.
We are accustomed to seeing whales in Maui, and their behavior there is very different than their behavior once they return to their feeding grounds in Alaska. In Maui there is no food source. They are there strictly to either mate or deliver their calves. They meander around and play in the water. You see a lot of breaching and other playful behavior.
In Alaska they get down to the business of fattening up for their migration south, consuming 2000 lbs of food per DAY, primarily herring. Where in Maui whales travel in very small groups (most of the time just a mom and calf, with an occasional “escort” and even more rarely, a competition pod of several males trying to get a female’s attention,) in Alaska they group into cooperative feeding pods of as many as 11-12 animals to “bubble net fish.”
They all go down together and bubble around a school of herring, trapping them in the middle of the group of whales. The leader of the pod gives a screeching signal and they all head to the surface at the same time, mouths open to catch the herring. On the surface, the sea gulls keep watch, and when the whales are headed up, they circle around overhead to grab the extras.
So, the trick is to watch the birds. MOST of the time they are right, and the whales come up right below them, the whole group, mouths open. It is an incredible sight! Then the birds fly around frantically grabbing fish, and the whales spread out and do shallow dives in preparation to come up again just a few minutes later, so there is lots of tail action.
The thing is, you’re just never sure where they are going to come up. About the time you think they’ve moved away, they pop up right near you. There were times I had to zoom OUT because they were too close for the lens I was using! Some of the whales were close enough that we could have jumped from the boat onto their backs, and we could literally SMELL their fish breath!
The crazy thing is, the photos LOOK like they are black and white because of the weather conditions.
But grab a cup of coffee and enjoy, anyway!
And my favorite…
Thanks, Captain Brian! We had a GREAT time. And yeah, you kinda blew the last whale watch outta the water!