This morning was a drizzly one, but with our fleet’s ability to untie the raft and raise our anchors quickly, we were able to get underway and dry off just in time for the sun to come out. We left Foggy Bay at slack, and reentered Revillagigedo Channel heading north towards our final destination, Ketchikan.
To our amazement, right as we began navigating northward, the fleet noticed commotion further south in the channel. We then realized that we were amongst several pods of humpback whales bubble net feeding. This astonishing act of intricate strategy is accomplished by humpbacks blowing “nets” of bubbles to herd or concentrate groupings of fish in the area. Once their net has successfully corralled a fair amount of bait, the pod of whales will then rise to the surface with their mouth wide open scooping hundreds of gallons of water, to then force that water out through their baleen to feed on the fish, krill, and other marine organisms caught in this natural filter.
As we watched the whales break the surface, dive down, synchronize a bubble net and repeatedly recreate the process, we dropped our hydrophone in the water to explore what calls and communications could be emanating throughout the water column. What we found was that just as the whales were about to break the surface, they vocalized in a very consistent and repetitive pattern, seemingly alerting the group of their readied positions. As we looked into the callings, we found that researchers who focus their research on depicting patterns and similarities of whale vocalizations across worldwide humpback pods, they have found similarities in these feeding calls and that they are normally made by one designated whale.
After observing in utter awe, the fleet watched the pod move out further and further away from our vessels, not one ounce of our admiration dissipating even in distance. Once their hunting procedures were a safe distance away from us, we started our engines back up and reoriented ourselves to continue heading north.
The rest of the way into Ketchikan was calm, with the cloud cover lifting, sun peeking through and episodes of light misting sending vibrant rainbows low across the water. After our showing of the bubble net feeding we were all very aware of our surroundings and hoping for one last marine animal viewing before we pulled into the marina in Ketchikan.
South East Alaska is home to three distinct Native tribal groups: The Tlingit, the Haida and the Tsimshian. The Tlingit people have been in Southeast Alaska since time immemorial, while many Haida people moved into Ketchikan in the mid 1700s, and the Tsimshian people made their way into Ketchikan around the late 1800s. Today Ketchikan’s Totem Heritage Center preserves and promotes traditional Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures through nationally recognized Native Arts classes.
With the Gravina Islands off of our starboard side, we passed by the 12-mile-long and 8-mile-wide, Duke Island. In the Tlingit communities, this island originally held the name of Yeixhi, meaning ‘building’ as it looked like something under construction from a far off viewing atop the surrounding waters. This landmass is currently being explored for its unique geological complexes, consisting of ultramafic rocks that are found in the earths mantel, rather than the outermost crust layer that we currently reside atop. These minerals are quite rare and are dated at being over 2.8 billon years old.
Making our way into Tongass Narrows, the Y-shaped channel funneled us into the marina in Ketchikan and one by one our vessels tucked into their slip assignments and crew began to settle in and prepare for their disembarking tomorrow. The city of Ketchikan opened its first cannery in 1883, and was officially incorporated in 1900. Named after its major creek, Ketchikan Creek, the city earned its nickname ‘first city’ not due to being the first in Alaska, but due to this being the southernmost city and the first port most would visit on their way north into Alaska.
Exploring Ketchikan our fleet spent time reminiscing on our many journeys, and most families and friends expressed deciding to stay a bit longer in the city scheduling fishing charters and local experiences before they made their way back to their home states. Our night in Ketchikan was a calm and majestic one, with the marina filled with juvenile and mature bald eagles gracefully welcoming our presence while we soaked in the sunset.
P.S. Is Alaska on your bucket list? We can take you there! Email us to reserve your spot on our 2023 Mother Goose AK Flotilla. firstname.lastname@example.org