Humpback whales bubble-net feeding - Chatham Strait / Inside Passage outside of Juneau, Alaska
Not easy to see unless you're looking but there's a herring that seems to be attempting an escape. Look out of the water and in the humpback whale's closing mouth at the bottom right... I don't think that herring had any chance against the enormous mouth pouch of a humpback. And, given their size, how many herring do you think it takes to fill them up?
Only performed by a small number of humpbacks, bubble-net feeding is a true joy to observe. One whale calls to the others and choreographs the dance to herd herring into a tight ball by blowing bubbles around them (effectively creating a "net" around the herring). Other whales use their pectoral fins ("pec flappers") to further scare the herring into an even tighter ball. When they're ready, the humpbacks swim through the center of the ball, gorging themselves and filling their food pouches on the bait ball. They filter the fish through their baleen plates and then erupt through the surface with an incredible display of strength and beauty.
I traveled to Juneau as part of an expedition guided by wildlife photographer Jon Cornforth
. As a small group, we spent 9 days on a 42-foot Nordic Tug cruising the Inside Passage to find groups of humpbacks performing this cooperative feeding technique. Jon's skills and knowledge of the area gave us superb viewing and opportunities to witness this truly amazing sight.
For more information: Alaska Whale Foundation
, humpback whale
, Cornforth Photography Tours