!The sweet call of the whales drifts across the sea
And from the foaming waves they leap high and free
Diving down deep they disappear from view
Emerging again from the oceans so blue
These gentlest of creatures are a joy to see
Gliding in and out of the waves on the oceans and seas
Just for you dear Sherri…………..hugs…Elle x
is very much into protecting whales please read and check her gorgeous site..
Northeast Pacific Ocean humpback whales caught in the act of cooperatively bubble netting…four humpback maws are opened wide as they lunge toward the surface. Weighing in at approximately 40 tons (80,000 pounds) apiece, the four whales in this photo comprise 160 tons of humpback whale! The four whales depicted were part of a large feeding group. As the whales sounded for the depths to commence another cooperative bubblenet, I counted a minimum of 19 humpback whale tail flukes in this cooperative feeding pod.
Herring was schooling in immense shoals in Tebenkof Bay along Kuiu Island in South Chatham Strait. Uncountable numbers of the eight-inch fish were making the water roil. Tiny ripples made by swirling herring kept hitting the surface from the depths, creating a sound like the gentle pattering of rain. A clean, briny scent filled the air that bespoke the presence of immense numbers of bait fish near the surface. I was not the only one noticing this bounty. The whales were also aware of the abundant herring.
Conditions were nearly perfect with clear blue skies, soft sunlight glittering off of the sea and great numbers of humpback whales feasting on herring. Only a riffle of wind stirred the surface of the water. Some humpback whales worked alone but what I hoped to see was cooperative humpback bubble net feeding. While humpback whales employ bubbles worldwide to feed on prey, in SE Alaskan waters some humpback whales have adapted a unique strategy of cooperatively hunting herring incorporating individually unique feeding calls, bubbles and coordinated synchronous lunging. Deploying a hydrophone over the edge of the boat I heard the screeching calls of humpback whales coordinating their feeding lunges on herring from the depths below the boat.
Click onto the link to hear a sample of a humpback whale cooperative feeding call (Thanks to Captain Dennis Rogers and Alaska Sea Adventures for use of this feeding call.)
Each whale appears to have an assigned roll in cooperative bubble netting. Some create ascending calls plus trumpeting blasts heard on the hydrophone as well as through the hull of the boat while other whales in the group produce a ringed curtain of bubbles to entrap the herring. On a signal, the humpbacks lunge to the surface en masse through the curtain of bubbles, their immense jaws gaping and ventral throat pleats grossly distended with seawater and herring as the whales rise above the surface of the sea. I’m always reminded of black mussels when I see these giant maws rocketing out of the surface of the ocean.
For this whale geek, observing cooperative bubble net feeding behavior is akin to finding the Holy Grail. Seeing a ring of bubbles rise to the surface only to be followed by lunging humpback whales amidst frantically escaping herring is a sight that whale watchers hope to view. Over the days I spent in Tebenkof Bay, I witnessed c. 75 cooperative bubble nets in our immediate vicinity while other groups of whales could be seen in the distance bubble netting from time to time. The groups we observed ranged in numbers from 8-10 individual humpbacks to just under two dozen.
Interestingly, when the humpbacks surface for deep lusty breaths, one often hears excited trumpeting and deep elephant-like groans and growls.
There is evidence suggesting that one whale in particular is always the first whale to dive down and there is always one whale in particular that is the last whale to dive. When the last whale is down, get your cameras ready for within 20 seconds or sometimes a minute or more, the whales generally lunge to the surface somewhere in the nearby vicinity. From our observations it seemed as if certain whales always showed up in the same positions in the organized chaos of the bubble nets.
University of Hawaii-Hilo onboard whale researcher professor Dr. Adam Pack is studying the longevity of cooperative bubble netting associations within the SE Alaska bubble netting groups and how long these associations persist. First documented in the early 1980s by the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory in Honolulu, now known as The Dolphin Institute , Dr. Pack is studying the length of these cooperative bubble netting associations and whether any of these associations persist within the Hawaiian wintering grounds. Dr. Pack spent many hours on the deck of our boat photographing whale tail flukes as the whales dived. Each evening he worked on matching current documentations of humpback whale tails to the catalog of documented photographed whale flukes.
For those of you interested in an excellent online tool for identifying the Alaska/Hawaii population of humpback whales, click onto the Northeast Pacific Ocean Humpback Fluke Identification Catalog . Using this catalog one may be able to identify humpback whale tails you have photographed in either Alaska or Hawaii. For instructions on how to contribute your own fluke identification photos, please visit the Fluke ID Catalog
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