Whales in Winter

By , December 15, 2011

One of the more thrilling features of life on our homestead is our close proximity to humpback whales. We regard this as a seasonal phenomenon. Generally speaking, humpbacks that summer in our waters migrate to Hawaii, the mating and calving grounds of the Pacific humpback population. I say “generally,” because many whales overwinter here in Southeast Alaska.

I remember that last year, a friend of mine went home to Wrangell, south of here, for Thanksgiving. He got some amazing video of a large pod of humpbacks feeding in the waters off his mother’s beach. I remember seeing humpbacks in the shelter of Tenakee Inlet at Thanksgiving as well, but they seem to forsake the northern end of Southeast Alaska, where we live, in the colder months.

In the time we’ve been here, we usually stop sighting whales between November and March. Our wildlife journal contains one humpback entry as early as January, but these are very rare.

This year, for some reason, things are different. Humpback whales have stayed in the area into mid-December so far.

With decreasing daylight as we near the Winter Solstice, we’re hearing whales more often than we’re seeing them. Because we’re not always certain that we’re hearing whales rather than a ferry wake or snow sliding off the roof, we often err on the side of caution, and don’t note every incident in our wildlife journal. But sometimes, there can be no mistaking. On calm mornings we’ll hear a whale blow several times as it passes. During daylight hours one of us will glance up just at the right moment to see a whale surface as it goes by.

If the seas are steep from high winds, it’s almost impossible to see a whale, so there may be a lot more activity than we realize, not just this year, but in past winters as well. It’s hard to say. At any rate, we’re glad of their company during the winter, as at any time of year.

 

2 Responses to “Whales in Winter”

  1. neighbor says:

    We’ve been surprised at how many whales we’ve seen and heard lately, too! Just heard another one tonight when I was collecting eggs from the chickens!

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Ah, good! That would imply that we haven’t simply been inattentive in past years!

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