During my 13 summers in Alaska, I have had my mind blown over and over again. From the otherworldly northern lights to the stunning fall colors of Denali to the towering glaciers of the southeast, I thought maybe I’d seen it all. Then, at the end of the tourist season this fall, a pod of humpback whales decided to do some bubble net feeding for several days as if to say, I’ll see your natural wonders and raise you some dramatic whale activity.
Bubble net feeding, in case you were wondering, is a unique and boisterous feeding behavior that is rarely seen in my part of Alaska. The whales swim in circles around a school of unfortunate fish, releasing bubbles and making screaming sounds. The bubbles corral the fish and force them to the surface. Then, the whales dive down and lunge up through the fish, breaching the surface with a mouthful of sushi. To add to the drama, flocks of scavenging seagulls circle overhead and swoop down to pick up the scraps because humpbacks, like me as a child, are very messy eaters.
I spent four hours aboard the M.V. Taz as a pod of whales circled the boat, surfacing dramatically every ten minutes or so. The whales popped up with different backgrounds in different light, a photographer’s dream.
I spent the entire trip outside taking photos. I knew exactly how special and rare this was. Some of the tourists actually got bored and took a seat inside for a break. They did not appreciate what they were seeing!
I have to confess that there was one big problem that day. Once, the pod of whales dove right under the boat and sprayed us with whale snot when they surfaced on the other side. Whale snot, in case you are wondering, smells like a mixture of morning breath after a night of heavy drinking and salmon that has been left out in the sun all day. We did, however, get pins verifying that we got snotted-on aboard the M.V. Taz. I wear mine with pride.
Below are two photo galleries, one in color and the other in black and white. Click any photo to open a slideshow view.