2005 Aug 8, Frederick Sound, Alaska: breaching Humpback whales

Click the thumbnail for photo gallery

We were cruising the Frederick Sound area searching for Grizzly [Brown Bears]. We got lucky — as we found three different very playful Humpback whales. These pics where shot with a Canon EOS-350D SLR with 480mm [35mm equivalent].

As we approached the entrance to Pybus Bay around 3PM we saw several individual humpback whales spouting and sounding. Then, ahead, right on our course, a humpback whale breached. Then again. Then he slapped the water with his long pectoral fin, again, and again. The whale breached again, and at least 15 more times as we used up the memory on all of our cameras. Magnificent! What a show! We were able to time its activities and predict just about when the next breach would occur, but never ‘where’ the whale would surface. But the whale would keep breaching, over and over, giving us time to get our camera pointed in the right direction. Twice the whale breached quite near to the boat, a little too close for comfort.

The researchers at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary believe that these humpback whale behaviors “allows the whale to dislodge barnacles and other parasites from its body, serves as a form of communication, or maybe just a form of playful activity for the humpback.” Scientists are not supposed to anthropomorphize, but it sure looked like fun to us!

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