With the promise of a decadent hot springs bath at the end of the day, Mother Goose left behind the lovely town of Hoonah and began the trek down Chatham Strait for Warm Springs Bay. Part way down Chatham we spotted a few sailing vessels surrounded by blows. As we slowed, we realized those blows belonged to a group of Humpbacks who were bubble net feeding. Bubble. Net. Feeding!! Had I known our fleet was going to be in an episode of Blue Planet, I would have started off the day with a British accent a la David Attenborough.
(For the full experience read this next bit as a David voice over.) Of the thousands of humpbacks who come to Alaska to feed every year, only a handful have the cultural adaptation for collective lunge feeding. Aptly named, bubble net feeding requires several humpbacks in specialized roles working together to corral and catch schools of bait fish. First some of the humpbacks blow a ring of bubbles around the fish trapping them in one place. Next, another humpback, typically a male, emits a loud scream that frightens the fish into a tight bunch. The group of humpbacks then lunge feed, mouths open and throat walls red and distended, up towards the surface in a carefully choreographed fish buffet. Witnessing this extraordinary behavior up close is truly a once in a lifetime experience.
With our jaws still on the deck, the fleet turned away from the group of humpbacks and continued on to Warm Springs Bay. Our jaws were really getting a work out today because as you turn the corner into Warm Springs Bay you are met with a stunning view of a beautiful, jaw-dropping waterfall not yards from the dock. Crews trickled in and rafted up. Many crews took a delightful hike to a fresh water lake and then doubled back to visit the thermal pools. Nothing like relaxing in a natural hot springs, with the sounds of a rushing waterfall nearby, to wrap up a perfect Alaskan day.