Fortunately Capt Larry found many for me to practice with
Humpback whales are the most acrobatics of whales, heaving their massive bodies by leaps and turns out of the water. Humpbacks are both cosmopolitan - found in all oceans - and endangered. Only about seven percent of their pre-whaling numbers remain. Coastal feeders who love shorelines, bays, and fjords, they are naturals for Alaska, which boasts nearly 34,000 miles of tidal shoreline. Humpbacks feed here on krill, shrimp, and various fish including capelin. Humpbacks feed heavily because, unlike most birds and mammals, they do not feed year round. Humpbacks must store enough fat in summer to last the rest of the year. Adults average 40 to 50 feet long, females being the larger. Adults weigh in at about three-quarters of a ton per running foot.
An adult humpback has from 600 to 800 baleen plates in its mouth. These plates end in bristles. In the feeding process, huge masses of sea organisms are scooped into the mouth. Then the water, some 150 gallons at a shot, is expelled while the plates filter in the edibles. Were you to stare into a humpback's mouth, which opens to 90 degrees, you might not readily discount the Biblical mishaps of Jonah.
Glacier Bay humpbacks have been observed working singly or in pairs to cast a "net" of bubbles about their prey and then harvesting the hapless creatures, probably shrimp and other slower moving organisms, caught in their airy illusion. To see these large whales in their native habitat surely counts as one of the great experiences of a lifetime. The situation of whales, particularly of the endangered humpback whales, in Glacier Bay has recently been under intensive scrutiny by scientists. The purpose of the studies has been to learn enough about these awe-inspiring creatures to protect them. The numbers of whales present can vary dramatically from year to year. Whether these variations are wholly natural or not is uncertain. Historically, most of the available information about whales derives from attempting to hunt them, not to save them from extinction.
Each summer 15 to 20 humpback whales regularly feed in park waters, concentrating in the lower part of the bay. They migrate here from their winter home in the warm waters off Hawaii and can often be seen along the shorelines of Southeast Alaska. Special regulations go into effect when large concentrations of whales are in the park. The regulations affect vessel speed limits and travel routes in certain areas.