It’s a rare and quite a special sight. If you are lucky enough to be one of the few to witness a bubble-netting, consider yourself blessed. This rare phenomenon does not happen every day. It actually only happens for a short time during our whale watching season in Southeast Alaska. Those facts alone make it an amazing feat of nature, but don’t take our word for it. Dr. Fred Sharpe has been studying bubble-netting whales for over 20 years. The Alaska Whale Foundation has a great article about Dr. Sharpe. You can read about it here.
How rare this phenomenon?
As stated above, we typically only see bubble-netting for a few weeks during the summer of our whale season. To add to that fact, Dr. Sharpe has found out that not all humpback whales bubble-feed. Out of all the humpback whales we find in our waters, only a fraction of them have been spotted bubble-netting. With all the facts we know, your chances of seeing bubble-netting is not high. Fear not our captains don’t mess around! Only an estimated 10% of humpback whales come to southeast Alaska. Of this small group of humpback whales only a few of them actually bubble-net feed. It is our captains jobs to locate them, and try their best to help you witness this amazing phenomenon.
“Dr. Sharpe has identified about 60 regular bubble-netting participants among the 4000 or so whales thatfrequent Southeast Alaska during the summer foraging season.” https://www.alaskawhalefoundation.org/research-1/
It takes a lot of skill and talent from our crew to showcase the whales to our visitors.
What Happens During Bubble-Net Feeding?
Ordinarily, humpbacks are solitary creatures that travel alone. The bubble-netting behavior sees a group of humpbacks come together and rapidly circle in an upwardly shrinking spiral. The whales blow bubbles beneath a school of fish, commonly herring—teeming the waters in the summertime. The herring get corralled into the net, produced by the whales’ precise, fine-scale movements and finely tuned teamwork. Then they efficiently scoop up lunch with their mammoth-sized mouths, gulping thousands of fish at once. It’s over in a flash and you never know the exact spot where the whales will engage in the behavior.
NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) does incredible work in studying the humpback population. You can check out their studies here.
Season Report Of Bubble-Net Sightings
This year, a small portion of our guests enjoyed a handful of random bubble-net sightings in early June. The mind blowing bubble-netting didn’t occur again until the beginning of July. Incredibly, we have been seeing bubble-netting very frequently for the last month, and it continued well into August.
What We Can Promise
Fear not, your luck will prevail. With 100% confidence from our years of experience in the whale watching business, what we can promise, is that you will see humpbacks on our whale watching tours! That’s a given during the season, which runs from the start of May through the end of September. In the unlikely event that you don’t see a single whale, we will give you every cent back. Namely, we guarantee whale sightings but what we can’t guarantee, is what they’ll be doing when you see them.