Friday, 10 August:
Yesterday, Thursday, was a relaxing sea day, as we cruised the waters of British Columbia and Queen Charlotte Sound, making our way into the open waters of the Gulf of Alaska.
Today we arrived at Icy Strait Point located on Chichagof Island and headed out to search for brown bears and to do some whale watching. We drove for about 30 minutes through the interior forests to the Spasski River, where we hoped to see some bears out feeding. We walked the trails to three viewing platforms, but not a bear in sight.
We had better luck on the next part of our day out when we boarded a catamaran for Port Adolphus, which is one of Alaska’s premier whale-watching sites.
We found a pod of twelve whales “bubble net feeding” and we watched them do this for a long time. It is a feeding method unique to humpback whales where one whale will dive beneath a school of fish and begin to exhale out of its blowhole to create bubbles. More whales will start to blow bubbles while circling their prey. They corral the fish into a tight circle by creating a net of bubbles which will surround the fish and stop them from escaping. One whale will sound the call and then all the whales will swim to the surface with their mouths open to feed on the trapped fish.
Seagulls take advantage of the abundance of fish coming up to the surface and we saw a large flock of gulls waiting for the bubbles to appear. They would float on the water and suddenly take to the sky and circle over the area where the whales would appear. Food for all!
We had a naturalist on board who was a fund of information about the whales behaviour, and she said it was the first time she had seen so many whales bubble net feeding at one time. The whales completely ignored our boat, even swimming across the bow a couple of times as they searched for fish.
Before we left, the crew lowered a hydrophone (an underwater microphone) into the water and we could clearly hear the whales communicating with each other. How lucky we were to be able to see and hear these amazing and majestic creatures. It was an experience we will never forget.