We were hardly out of the harbor and Captain Greg said, “Whales ahead.” We looked and could see several blow spouts not far away. Soon it seemed they were blowing and rolling all around us. Captain Greg explained that they were bubble netting and that Auk Bay was the only place he knew that they did this. The whales blow bubbles and encircle the herring, forcing the herring closer and closer together. Then on cue, the whales dive and come up under the herring with their mouths open, catching all they can in one bite. When this happens you can see the whole head of the whale and the stretching of the baleen. Other than this behavior, if you aren’t lucky enough to see a whale breach (jump up out of the water) then the most you’ll see of the humpbacks is their back and tail. We didn’t see any jump, but the bubble netting was fascinating.
Captain Greg was able to identify some of the whales by name. Evidently the locals have named a few and they are recognizable by the markings on their tails. No two tails are alike. Captain Greg and his boat are often called upon
to assist in research or whale rescues. His boat is specially designed by him (he’s an ex engineer) and is so stable that film crews often use the deck to set up their cameras and tripods when filming the whales. He’s assisted in a PBS documentary and a Pangea documentary on whales and their behavior. Whales are so prevalent in the summertime, that it’s a favorite spot for filming and research, and the whale watching boats all offer a whale sighting guarantee or your money back.
Being in the presence of whales is an exciting and moving experience. They are so graceful that you forget how large they are and how much power they have, until they blow. The sound and force is amazing.
If you go, I recommend Captain Greg. It was just Cheryl, Mike and I, so we had a private charter, but his boat can hold up to six people if you have a larger group. It’s about the same price as the cruise ship charters that hold 150 people. The name of his boat and business is “Weather Permitting”. He’s on facebook too.
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