Have you been to the beach in the past few days? It sure looks (and feels) like winter! With our latest big northwest swell, the surf has been up. And, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, big swells seem to coincide with whale sightings further from the shoreline.
On Thursday’s Wake up with the Whales Cruise we covered a lot of ocean before we saw the first two spouts of the day. While we were searching, we took advantage of the calm winds to stop the boat and deploy our hydrophone. We hadn’t heard a lot through our underwater microphone the past few days, so we weren’t expecting much…but boy, were we surprised! We heard several loud and clear voices, and some of the new phrases that we’ve only begun to notice this season, so we’re pretty sure we were listening to male Humpbacks singing (as opposed to vocalizations from the rest of the population). After we finished listening, we motored over to where we saw the spouts about 3 miles offshore of Puako. These whales were moving — swimming at about 8 knots. They were motoring so fast that we were actually hard pressed to keep up with them! But we did manage to parallel their path for about 4 miles, watching them surface, spout, and dive several times. The whales were breathing hard — it must have been a challenge for them to swim so fast for so long.
Ocean Sports will be operating our Whale Watch Cruises until April 15th…but this will be the final report from me this season as I’ll be travelling the next few weeks without internet access. I have enjoyed sharing our sightings with you this season, and I look forward to resuming the reports next December!
Mahalo for all of your comments, support and questions!
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: We now know that not every Humpback who survives the summer season in Alaska will choose to join us in Hawaii next winter. Based on information compiled by our favorite researcher Chris Gabriele and her cohorts for the National Park Service in Glacier Bay and Icy Strait, at least 10 Humpbacks have been documented spending one winter off the coast of Sitka, and at least one off the coast of Juneau. We really don’t know how common this behavior is because almost no photographic identification research takes place in SE Alaska over the winter (and really, who can blame the researchers when there are such great opportunities to conduct their studies in sunny Hawaii during this time period?!).