Hoonah, Alaska is the trip’s smallest town (about 750 people). The actual dock is at Icy Strait Point, and there’s not just a whole lot here. The town’s leaders are unwilling to cede effective control of their town to the cruise lines, so the only businesses here are locally-owned and can support themselves year-round. As a result, there’s just not much to do: ride 45 minutes up a mountain for a 90-second “zip-line” ride (it IS the world’s longest zip-line)? A few flightseeing, fishing, or whale-watching excursions, scenic nature trips…didn’t sound like a very exciting day.
Until about 9:00 a.m., that is, when the whale showed up.
We were fortunate to see the humpback’s “bubble net” feeding technique. Whales take a breath, dive beneath their prey, then swim in a circle and exhale beneath the prey, creating a column of air that “traps” the prey. One whale then rushes up through the center of the column with its mouth wide open, taking in huge amounts of food. The difference here is that it was only one whale. It repeated this throughout the day, up and down the edge of the bay.
As our shuttle boat took us from the ship to a permanent dock, the whale shot up out of the water not 50 feet away, prompting gasps and excited reactions from all those on hand (including me). I wasn’t able to catch it on film, which would have been spectacular, but I do have some decent photos to share.
Having been taking through tinted glass on a cruise ship, this photo isn’t the best, but it does show the bubble ring:
These photos were taken outside from Deck 5, as opposed to through the tinted glass on Deck 11 (above):