This weekend we were out on the water with the Sitka Whalefest. When we got off the Allen Marine boat on Saturday we wondered if it could get any better, with lunge feeding, bubble nets, a breach and whale bows (or is it rain blows?) as the sun refracted through the whale breath. The answer was yes, while the first the first hour on Sunday was a little disappointing (but only by comparison with Saturday) at about 10 AM things exploded. The humpback whales started lunge feeding and bubble netting. In 90 minutes we saw at least 9 such feedings. It was quite a sequence. The seagulls would take flight, circle and head for an area of sea. Perhaps they spotted bubbles. The whales came up, mouths agape and the seagull swooped in. So help me it looked like they were taking fish out of the mouths of the whales. It was most incredible. After lunge feeding the whales would go under for a few minutes and then pop up to take deep breaths before sounding, showing their flukes as they went down. We counted the flukes to determine how many whales were in each lunge. They ranged from 10 to 19. A few minutes later they repeated the process, again and again. The boats depth finder registered a “false bottom” because the herring were so think the reflections could not get past them. The whales took advantage. On one lunge two whales came up first, in one plot of ocean, the gulls headed there. Then most of the whales popped up a couple of hundred yards to the southeast. The birds made a quick turn and descended. For several cycles I just stood there not taking pictures, watching, my mouth probably as agape as the whales’. And I was listening. The gulls cry as they wheel around and head toward the bubbles and the whales. Then there was the whoosh and splash of whales coming out of the water, more gull cries, big splashes as the whales fell back into the water, finally the deep breaths of the whales as they came up for air. I’ve lived in Sitka for a long time but this was a magnitude of difference.
To see pics from the festival itself click here.