Seven Breaches

08-25-2015

Expedition Team, Safari Endeavour

A thundering crash, then an eruption of shouts and cries echoed over the water.

Seven breaches? Seven breaches! Did you see? Oh my gosh, did you see?

Everyone watched as the ocean fizzled and swirled where the whales had fallen back into the water.

There were no words to describe what just happened. Giddy smiles and awe struck eyes swept the water, trying to comprehend what we just witnessed.

Seven whales propelled their bodies out of the water one after the other swinging their massive pectoral fins, water cascading off ventral pleats, and then crash!--the thunder of seven 40-ton whales hit the water.

Seven breaches.

Whale Breaching in Alaska

People clung to their cameras and watched the water’s surface with the hope that they might breach again, but what we had just seen was a once-in-a-lifetime story to tell the grandchildren kind of event.

Seven breaches.

We watched and waited as the whales surfaced and dove right next to each other: breathing, arching, diving. Then, to our amazement they emerged together out of the water again, this time to bubble feed!

Bubble net feeding in Alaska

Bubble Net Feeding is a unique feeding behavior of humpback whales in Alaska, and is observed infrequently. Together, a group of humpbacks will dive beneath the surface and blow a circular net of bubbles which surround a school of fish.

The fish swarm together away from the bubbles as one whale makes a long, loud trumpet call, prompting all of the other animals to swim through the bubble net to the surface where they engulf the fish.

The whales created their bubble nets again and again right next to the Safari Endeavour.

Bubble netting in Alaska

Hannah, one of our guides, grabbed a hydrophone and dropped it in the water.

At first all we could hear was the sound of the engines and the lapping of water against the hull. But then, the long eerie trumpet call broke through the engine noise. It grew louder and louder until it overtook all other background noise.

Then it went silent.

We watched the water in anticipation, and sure enough mouths broke the surface engulfing water and fish.

Bubble net feeding

It’s hard to describe an encounter like the one we had this week. Perhaps the whales breached together to celebrate the coming together of friends or the anticipation of a shared meal.

In any case it was probably one of the most spectacular events many of us have ever seen in Alaska.

Seven breaches.



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