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Giant Splashes

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Whale Watching

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Julien

We have been having some more phenomenal weeks on the whale watches. If you had a chance to be on any of this last week’s tours, they were very memorable! This has definitely been our peak of the season for blue whales and other species as well. The krill has been very abundant and, lucky for our guests aboard, at the surface for the whales to feed on.

The last couple of weeks started with some very rare breaching behavior from a blue whale calf. The calf seemed to be very excited and was attempting to project its leviathan body out of the water. Whale biologists believe that breaching is a social behavior meant to communicate with other nearby whales for mating, courtship, or dominance. Other theories suggest that the whale needs a way to break up the hundreds of pounds of parasites that live on their skin. Many whale calves partake in this behavior and create quite a show.

The other giant splashes we have been seeing lately have been from a humpback whale that has been revisiting us throughout the month. This particular humpback has not only been lunge feeding on the abundance of krill in the area, but also performing some tail lobbing. This is another non-vocal communication behavior that has been suggested to be a way the humpbacks stun their prey. The thunderous slaps of their tails to the surface of the water make their prey react and group together, thus making it easier to take a huge gulp.

The most impressive splashes that we have seen lately have been the blue whales lunge feeding at the surface of the water. This sight has to be one of the most astounding and mesmerizing feats of nature. The blue whale exudes pure energy lunging and turning onto its side while gulping up a ball of krill. The surface of the ocean has been scattered with krill patches, and the more surface patches we see, the better the show gets! The ventral pleats found on the throat of the blue whales expand to hold up to 70,000 gallons of water (as much as a swimming pool), which we have been seeing right next to the boat. Fin whales, humpback whales, and minke whales have also been joining the feast periodically as well. Come see the largest animals on earth hunting for their food, feeding, and just being whales!

Giant Splashes
Tail lobbing behavior exhibited by a frequently visiting humpback whale.  | Aquarium of the Pacific
Giant Splashes
Lunge feeding from a blue whale almost compltely on its back. Check out those ventral pleats!
 | Aquarium of the Pacific
Giant Splashes
The inside upper jaw of a blue whale coming up for another lunge for krill.  | Aquarium of the Pacific
Giant Splashes
A local minke whale joining in on the feast of krill.  | Aquarium of the Pacific

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