I’ve never been whale watching in my life. The only wild whale I’ve seen was a dead pygmy sperm whale in North Carolina, so this was quite an experience.
These are all humpback whales, which come to Alaska to feed on the vast of krill and baitfish that are themselves fed on the vast phytoplankton blooms that happen as a result of long days of sunlight and the nutrients of glacial silt. They go to Hawaii to have their calves and breed, but those warm seas are totally devoid of whale food. So they come up to Alaska every summer to fatten themselves up. Hawaii is pretty much devoid of orcas, which kill whale calves, so those waters are the nursery. But the nursery is in a sea of famine.
There were many, many humpbacks swimming near the boat. I wish I had a photo of the one that came closest to the boat. I think it came within maybe 60 feet of the boat, and the first thing you could see is this massive black form coming up from the gray sea. Within just a few seconds, the great form appeared above the surface, spouted, and slipped back under.
I wish I had been able to get photos of that whale. It was really impressive.