Experts say you should always give whales lots of space, but what happens when they suddenly emerge in a marina, just feet from the dock?
That’s what happened last week at the Knudson Cove Marina in Ketchikan, Alaska. According to Cy Williams, captain of Alaska Strike Zone Sportfishing, the whale had been feeding there for a few days already, which is how he managed to capture the rare sight on video.
“It was breathtaking,” Williams said. “I genuinely thought it was going to hit the boat or the dock…it was so big.”
The video is breathtaking to watch, especially since Williams was close enough to capture details like the whale’s barnacles. But Leigh Torres, a marine ecologist and explorer, told National Geographic that humpback whale populations are expanding, so the whale could have been looking for new areas to find prey, or trying to avoid competition for food.
And because a crowded marina is so hazardous for these massive mammals, which can weigh up to 40 tons and measure as long as 62 feet, it’s an excellent hiding spot for the small fish whales are known to eat.
Torres said that the whale is feeding through a common bubblenet technique, also known as lunge feeding, in which whales capture large schools of herring by blowing bubbles around the fish to keep them from escaping. They might also vocalize to scare or confuse the fish, pushing them to the water’s surface. That’s when the whales lunge upwards, mouth agape, trying to gulp as many herrings as possible.
It’s an incredible sight that most will never witness from a boat, let alone a dock.
“Every time I see a whale I’m in awe, but being this close was something special,” Williams said.