I was fortunate to spend much of July in Alaska. It's a beautiful place, one characterised by wide-open vistas and unspoiled panoramas.
My purpose in visiting was to seek out humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) engaged in bubble net feeding, a social foraging technique that involves multiple whales executing a coordinated strategy of herding and consuming large quantities of fish, primarily herring from what I can tell. Considering how large humpbacks are and how murky the water is, planning and executing a team effort like this is no small feat.
I'm out the door again soon, so I don't have time to write as much as I want, but following is a series of photos to give you an idea of what it's like to witness this incredible event, starting with a view of a group just emerging from the water:
Zoom-in a bit, and you can see the baleen plates hanging down:
Zoom-out to gain perspective on the surroundings, and to see how tight and disciplined the whales' formation can be (they don't always come up so perfectly):
We were able to avoid tourist boats for the most part, though on some days, the whales just wanted to be where the big boats were:
In one particularly funny incident, all the passengers on one of the big boats pictured above were on the port side. A group of whales burst forth from the water about 20m away on their starboard side. A mad dash of dozens from left to right ensued, with boat leaning first one way, then the other. I don't think the passengers saw much, but at least they had a fun story to take home with them.
Here are couple of whales with mouths open, backlit by late-evening light:
A fluke sandwich:
Sneaky whale popping up right behind us!:
View straight-down the throat of the lead whale in one group, bathed by the warm evening light of summer in Alaska:
Whales breached from time to time, often just once though, which makes it difficult to photograph them. I got really lucky with this one:
And to wrap-up, this will give you an idea what the ports are like. This is Auke Bay, which gets pretty busy in the summer, but still manages to be picturesque:
One last photo, a picture I found while looking back through files from my first visit to Alaska back in 2012. Some day, maybe I'll have time to process more of those photos.
Big thanks to Jon, Dave, Pat, Kumiko, Rinko, Keiko, Akiko, Rimiko, Yuko, Tomoko and Makoto for a terrific trip!