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Eph60

Whale watching in Alaska

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During the summer months whale watching for humpbacks is big in Alaska. There are actually 5 different types of whales in Alaska but Humpbacks and Orca are seen the most on a cruise.

With any type of whale you will more then likely see the blow from their spout before you see anyother part of the whale. The blow can go 30 to 40 feet in the air and you can see it a long way off.

In Alaska the humpback is feeding and will not breach, or jump, as much as when it is in warmer waters. You still may see them breach but not as often.You will see a lot of them break the surface and see them roll where their fluke will come out of the water. Each fluke has markings on it and no two flukes have the same marking and that is how they identify infividual whales. There are a couple ways they eat that you might see. One is scoop feeding, where they come to the surface and literally open their mouths and scoop food from the water barely breaking the surface. Another way is bubble net feeding. This is where several whales will start circling fish blowing air to make a net that the fish will not swim through. Then whales will come up through the center of the air net and feed on fish. They do come higher out of the water when they do this. Juneau, Sitka, Seward, Whittier and Glacier Bay are excellent places to see humpbacks. Humpbacks will rise and lower in a certain patern, so when you do see them you may be able to figure out when they will surface again.

The Orca is in Alaska year round. They travel in family pods. The way to identify an Orca is by the markings around its dorcel fin this is called the saddle. No two Orca's have the same marking. The dorcel fin on an Orca can rise five feet or more in the air. An Orca is not actually a whale it is a an extra large porpoise. An Orca is a meat eater and will feed on sea lions and whales. When you Orca you will most likely see more then one. These you can see jump out of the water frequently. I actually have a picture of one in mid air off the side of a ship I was on. Orca's can be seen between Victoria and the Inside Passage. They are also in Juneau, Seward, Whittier and Glacier Bay.

There are also dalls porpoise that look like Orca, however they are much smaller and do not have the large dorcel fin. These like to play off the wake of the ship and are very fast.

The thing that is so amazing about seeing any whales in Alaska or anywhere for that matter, is the fact that they are all very graceful even though they are so large. I am always amazed when I spot a whale.

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Thanks for the interesting info on whales in Alaska. As a native New Englander, we've had the privilege of enjoying many whale sightings including humpbacks, finbacks, minke, pilot and right whales off Cape Cod, but we've never met an orca. I hope we get to see one in Glacier Bay this summer!

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Another way is bubble net feeding.

We were lucky enough to see a group of humpback whales bubble net feeding while we were on a whale watching tour in Juneau last year – truly amazing!

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