Saturday, June 14, 2008

Whale of a Tale

We cruised the Icy Straits on our way back to Juneau after our visit to Glacier Bay National Park. In the distance we saw a Humpback Whale breaching repeatedly so we changed our course to investigate. As we slowed the boat to a standstill in the general area we had seen the whale we heard that unmistakably powerful blow of whale breath. On the starboard, a large whale had surfaced and was slowly cruising past, her breath hung in the air. I noticed a large clump of bull kelp off the forward port side of the boat and suddenly realized that it was moving rather quickly. Just then a tail appeared in the mess and I realized that there was a whale in that kelp. At first it seemed as though the calf was helplessly tangled in the kelp and we wondered if we should attempt to intervene on his behalf. Soon enough it became apparent that he was playing! He disappeared beneath the surface and pushed the kelp upward with his nose, then rolled it around his flipper and finally sliding it down his back to give it a flip with his tail. He did this for about 10 mins before mom finally got impatient. She began slapping the water loudly with her tail. "Ok, enough playing around, we have to go eat!" she seemed to be saying. Like most children... this calf seemed to have selective hearing and ignored her for a while. Then she raised her flipper and slapped the water with it. That got his attention and he left his toy behind to joined her. A few spouts later they were ready to start feeding again and dove in unison. When we saw them next they were swimming away together, the bull kelp floating beside our boat, a discarded toy looking for a new purpose. Perhaps it would become cover for some fish or maybe another calf would find it interesting as it proceeded on it's journey through the Icy Straits.

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