Humpback Whales in Juneau, Alaska and Facts: Humpback whales are found in all of the world’s oceans, although they generally prefer near-shore and near-island habitats for both feeding and breeding. In North America, whales start to migrate from their breeding waters of Mexico in February and reaching their feeding waters off the coast of Alaska, near Juneau, around April. During the breeding season, the humpback males are known for singing the longest and most complex songs in the animal kingdom. After a 12 month pregnancy, calves are born 15 feet long and weighing about 1.5 tons. They drink around 65 gallons of milk per day and a suckling calf can gain more than 100 pounds a day during the first few weeks of its life. Mothers stop nursing their young at about 11 months, when the calf has grown as long as 27 feet.
Humpbacks are ‘baleen’ whales, they have 270-400 baleen plates, instead of teeth. They feed by taking huge gulps of water and filter krill and small fish between these plates, up to a ton of food each day. Humpbacks also feed using a technique known as ‘bubble netting’. They swim in a spiral underneath a school of fish or krill blowing lots of bubbles. This creates a net of bubbles that traps a giant mass of krill. They then swim up the centre with their mouths open and have a feast.
Humpback whales travel in groups known as pods. When in a playful mood, we can see then breaching, rolling, slapping their fins and generally having fun. An adult Humpback’s two lungs, each the size of a small car, are emptied and refilled in less than two seconds. As the Humpback surfaces, it exhales through two blowholes on the top of its head. The air is expelled and cooled so rapidly that it forms a distinctive cloud, which is often mistaken for water.
Humpback whales can be seen throughout Alaska from May through September. Often, cruise ship passengers can see whales right from the deck of the ship and people often book Alaskan cruises hoping to see the whales. However, the best way to increase your chances of seeing these whales is by taking a whale watching tour. The capital city of Juneau, Alaska is the jewel of the whale watching industry in Alaska. Most boats depart from Auke Bay Harbor and explore Alaska’s Southeast Inside Passage which is considered to be the best whale watching in Juneau. Best of all, the smaller boats allow you to get a much closer view of the whales than any cruise ship can offer and you will most likely receive interesting facts about the local whale pods from your captain. The best time to see Humpback whales is during the summer months. You will see Humpback whales in the Barren Islands between Homer and Kodiak. June and July are the best months for seeing these enormous whales feeding using bubble netting. Over 500 whales make Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage their home during the months of summer in the land of the midnight sun.