WHALES OF HOONAH
Some humpback whales stay in these cold Alaskan waters during the winter, but most choose to migrate to Hawaii or Mexico to give birth to their young and continue the circle of life. At birth the average baby Humpback starts out at a meager 4,000 pounds and 11-13 ft. in length. This pales in comparison to the baby’s mother who at a full-grown average length of 42 feet (females being the larger of the two genders) weighs 84,000 pounds or 1 ton for every foot of length. Some have been known to reach lengths of 55 feet and 110,000 pounds! One story even boasts of a Humpback measuring 88 feet.
Here in Hoonah many of our “resident” whales hang around in the waters of Port Frederick, but most of them stay in Icy Straits, more specifically near Point Adolphus. Thirty to forty minutes from Hoonah and directly across from Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, these waters hold the majority of the whales migrating to the Southeast. It is not uncommon to count 20-30 whales near the horizon during the summer months. Although normally a solitary creature, Humpbacks gather near Point Adolphus mainly because of the abundance of feed, which mostly consists of herring and krill. Water rushing in or out from the Pacific Ocean during the tide change collides with the inside water doing the complete opposite, creating a big tidal wash where feed, fish and predator all collide as well.
While researchers try to understand the reasons behind the song of the whale, why it slaps tail and fin on the water’s surface, we here in Hoonah actually enjoy the mystery of the Humpback. One of the most amazing mysteries of the Humpback is the magnificent display of power in what is known as the “breach.” Like a ballerina, this 45+ ton mammal flies out of the water as if it weighed next to nothing, cork screwing in the air and landing on its back, creating a wave and a thundering sound as it hits the water - a sight and sound you will never forget! Never knowing when and where the whale will decide such a maneuver, the captain of each vessel is usually just as amazed and excited as the guest.
So when you come to Hoonah, make sure you take the time to see the Humpback whales by boat, or take a quiet kayaking trip and throw chance to the wind or tide that you just might fulfill that once-in-a-lifetime dream to actually paddle with real giants! Or if you have the time (and if you don’t, then make it!), stay a couple of days and do both. As the Humpback whale population grows, so does our appreciation for this gentle giant. Come to Hoonah and enjoy our little secret!