Our windows look out onto the cove, the island reefs, the Cook Inlet and the Chigmit mountain range beyond. A tall white sail points straight into the sky, only to disappear a moment later. This has happened before, and I know I just witnessed the exciting moment of the first whale blow of the season. Our beautiful gentle giants are back!
Humpbacks are hungry when they get back to Alaska from their winter in Hawaii. Their whole season down south is spent mating, giving birth, tending to their babies, all without feeding. Tough the Hawaiian waters are beautiful and warm, they don’t provide the food needed to sustain the large sea mammals. We welcome the humpbacks back up here with enthusiasm. It is one of the most spectacular sights.
Whale encounters come in different ways. A tall spout lets us know a whale surfaces in the distance, its large back emerging and its blowhole spouting with a sound that carries over long distances when the seas are calm. It fact, we often hear whales before we see them. “Look for the humpbacks with your ears” we tell our guests. More than once have we heard thundering bangs, sounding like someone shot a big gun, only to find a Humpback whale lobtailing, smashing their tails repeatedly on the surface with the rest of its body submerged, pointing straight down. That as well as repeated loud smashing of their pectoral fins is a way for the whales to communicate with the other members of the pod.
One especially endearing sight is a sleeping whale. Once we paddled around the point of one of the islands, and saw a large dark mount floating motionless in front of us. The first thought was – there is no large tidal rock here, where did this landmass come from? Then we realized it was a humpback, laying on the surface of the water, motionless, in deep sleep. Another whale kept coming into the cove, parked himself in front of our neighbor’s cabin, and took naps there night after night.
The sights and sounds of the whales never fail to humble us, and we will never take the intimate encounters with them for granted.