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Whale Watching in Alaska: Beyond Biology Textbooks
 

 

An Assortment of Species


About half a dozen species of whale live in and around Kachemak Bay in Alaska. Humpbacks, orcas, beluga, minke, and fin whales have all been seen here. Another half dozen other types of marine mammals live here too. Sea otters, seals, porpoises, and sea lions all play in our bay. Each animal has a story to tell. 


Observing Orcas


Orcas are commonly called killer whales by biologists, but they’re technically not whales at all. They are the largest members of the dolphin family. Some orcas are fish eaters, and some hunt seals. You can identify individual killer whales by the size and shape of their dorsal fins, which can be six feet tall on males. Tracking individual whales and their pods in Alaska has helped scientists understand complex environmental changes shaping Alaska’s marine ecosystems.

 

The Best Time to Whale Watch in Alaska


Our humpbacks tell a story of migration. We share them with Mexico, Hawaii, and Japan. Each fall, these whales migrate thousands of miles south from Alaska waters to the tepid southern seas where they mate and calve. In the summer in Alaska, their fringed baleen helps them comb krill and small fish out of the water. Sometimes a group of humpbacks will swim in circles, releasing a ring of air bubbles that trap schools of fish in a cooperative hunting behavior known as bubble netting. While late July and August is the ideal time to whale watch in Alaska, humpbacks have been seen in and around Kachemak Bay from late May through until September!

 

Stories and Secrets of Other Marine Mammals 


Sea otters use stone tools to break open shells and rely on thick fur—rather than blubber—to stay warm. Sea lions and seals are often confused. Sea lions can sit upright on land, like those famed circus animals, and have ears. Seals look more like slugs on rocks in the sun when they’re not swimming. Porpoises thrill at riding the wake of large boats, and beluga whales are born grey but turn white as adults. In midsummer, they rub off their old skin on the gravel bottom along the shore. 

 

Your Alaskan Whale Watching Adventure Awaits 


Stillpoint Lodge offers wildlife cruises as well as a host of other adventures where you can witness Alaska’s wonders and secrets up close, including bear viewing, saltwater fishing, and guided kayaking and hiking. But book early to guarantee these incredible experiences. 

 

On a Stillpoint Lodge wildlife adventure, you could get so close to a humpback that you hear its exhalation. You could see a sea otter devouring an octopus. You could look into an orca’s eye. To see a whale is to glimpse the possibilities of the ocean and to see something that is, in so many ways, larger than ourselves.
 

 

by Miranda Weiss, author of Tide, Feather, Snow: A Life in Alaska

www.mirandaweiss.com

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