Alaska is too beautiful to be captured in photos, but I’m trying. Last week I posted a few pictures from a recent trip. Here are some more, all but two concerned with Humpback Whale Bubble Netting.
The BBC has an excellent short video* explaining how the Humpback Whales of Alaska (and only Alaska) catch herring by Bubble Netting. I had never heard of Bubble Netting, so the first time five whales blasted out of the water not far from our boat, I screamed. It’s an unforgettable sight. Here’s how it works:
The lead whale dives first. She (or he) is responsible for finding the fish. She is also the bubble-blower. The other whales follow in formation, with each whale taking the same position in every lunge. The lead whale locates the fish and blows a net of bubbles that completely encircles the shoal. Another whale calls (underwater) to synchronize the group.
Panicked by the eerie sound and the fizzing bubbles, the fish won’t cross the bubble curtain and the whales rise to the surface with their mouths open, swallowing the fish. The whales’ rubbery-looking lower jaws can expand to hold lots of water and fish.
This closeup of three whales in the circle shows the baleen in their mouths. It looks like very long, stiff hair. The whales push out water and air through the baleen, which acts like a sieve, and swallow only the fish.
Once that meal is completed, the whales move on to another group of herring and do it all again…
…while Smokey the Brown Bear watches from the shore.
I WANT TO GO BACK TO ALASKA!
*I can’t link to the BBC site but the video is on You Tube, dated January 2, 2015, and called “Whales’ Bubble Net Fishing/BBC Earth.”