I never thought whales were cool when I was little. My family took trips to various beaches over the years, and inevitably at some point in the vacation my mom would dash up to interrupt my boogie boarding or my tanning (teenage years) to excitedly point out some masses off in the distance.
“Look at those whales Payje! Aren’t they amazing/beautiful/majestic/incredible?” I couldn’t be bothered.
And to be perfectly honest, whales have always made me a little bit uncomfortable. Whenever I step into the ocean, and I know this is weird, I always have to acknowledge the fact that somewhere, there is a dead whale in that very same water. And I don’t know why but that just doesn’t sit well with me.
But time has a way of changing things as you well know.
A few weeks ago I took you on a little trip to Exit Glacier, near Seward, Alaska. On that very same trip, my faith in large marine mammals was renewed. Seward, like Homer, is an “end of the road town”. We seem to be drawn to those somehow. And so of course, we had to see where the end was.
As I was trying to maneuver us through this epic roadway (that I still argue should probably have a section on the show “Deadliest Journeys”) Justin rode shotgun. I was getting a little bit flustered because for some crazy reason that I just couldn’t understand, people seemed to be PARKING on this tiny road. They were getting out and walking over to the edge of the bay. “What are they doing????” I asked in a voice that could easily have been mistaken for desperation, “What are they looking at? Can’t they see how small this road is?” But now Justin was also craning his neck to see what they were looking at.
“Pull over” he said, “there are whales in there I think!”
Pull over where?
So I wedged us into a very small area between the cliff and the dirt road, and across we went, just in time to see a massive whale come right up out of the water about 100 feet in front of us.
And this went on and on, the whales were moving all over the bay, first they would stick their big faces straight up out of the water, then they would flip over and go back down, and their massive tails would splash up out of the water after them. I was entranced. I couldn’t be pulled away. Someone standing next to us told us that the whales were “bubble-netting”. Have you heard of that one? No? Well, here comes your science lesson.
Bubble-netting is a team effort used by groups of humpback whales to eat. The whales swim really fast in circles around schools of fish (krill mostly) and blow lots of bubbles. The bubbles stun and disorient the krill, so they are all trapped in one little area. That’s when the whales go in for the kill (haha the “krill kill”). They swim down to the very bottom of the ocean (taking turns in order of family hierarchy, how crazy is that?) then swim straight up to the surface with their mouths open, filling up with all those tiny little fishes all at once. Pretty good strategy huh?
It was so cool to witness these huge creatures doing something so incredible, and so close too! We had front row seats to the bubble netting extravaganza. And mom, just so you know, I will never take your whale sightings for granted again.