Saturday, December 17, 2011

Clever Whales and Clever Tour Guides

 by Robert L. Gisel

 As I mentioned in my earlier post Close Up Whale Watching, the bubble net is a trick used by groups of whales to round up their very own smorgasbord. One particular Alaskan company, Alaska Passages Adventure Cruises takes advantage of this.

 You have to come to Southeast Alaska for the event as it is one of the few locations in the world where you can see this phenomena of the humpback whale. Alaska Passages hails out of Petersburg.

 Whales work together as a team activity to create the feast. Freaking out a herring school with an encircling "curtain" of air bubbles, the humpback causes the herring to come together in a tight ball. One, or several whales, creates the bubble net, while others swim below to drive the herring up to the surface, then others yet herd the fish into the bubble net by vocalizing. All together they sweep upward through the center scooping mouthfuls of herring, thousands at a time.

 It is most usually multiple whales, but single humpbacks have been seen feeding with the bubble net technique. When you come to think about it, it is a very ingenuous method.

 In a South Pacific nation the native fishermen would float slats of wood on the surface casting shadows through the water. Creating the appearance of solid bars this way, fish were driven into the shallows where they could be netted. Perhaps they learned this from the intelligent whales.

 It is obviously a very practiced trick. In this video you can see the herring ball before the whales breach together into it. Here is another video that shows the tightening circle of the bubbles around the herring ball.

 Alaska Passages Adventure Cruises is a private yacht that is familiar with this and home in on the group breaching activity for an exciting tourist adventure. Here they have posted their explanation of how it works. They know of the trick and look for it.

 It would be bad business to promote whale watching and not see any whales, but Alaska Passages is clever about this. They utilize a radio network of fishing boats, other whale watching tours, aircraft, and their knowledgeable experience to locate whales. They have seen groups as many as 25 whales strong breaching in mass. That is really delivering the money's worth.

 It must be the massive size of these wild mammals that is such a high interest item. Alaska Passages don't only engage in whale watching, though. They are aware of the other high interest items, fishing, wildlife, glacier touring, and kayaking, or whatever else you might come up with. It is a flexible and cozy private cruise, 6 persons maximum.

 Please note, when it comes to whale watching, close to, not in the middle of, a bubble net is most recommended.


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