Whales are truly fascinating creatures. These majestic mammals are capable of growing to truly magnificent sizes, often far surpassing any animal that lives on land. When you cruise Alaska’s Inside Passage with Aurora Expeditions, there’s a very good chance you will spot humpback whales performing spectacular acrobatics at the surface of the ocean, making for unique and thrilling photographic opportunities. Let’s take a look inside the lives of these creatures.
The life cycle of a humpback
A Northern Hemisphere humpback calf begins its life near the equator, where the adult whales will have migrated during winter to breed. After its birth, it will spend the next 11 or so months staying close to its mother, and National Geographic reports that these pairs have been viewed touching flippers in what is believed to be a sign of affection. As the months progress towards the middle of the year, humpback whales make an incredible voyage northward to feed in the abundant Arctic waters. Their diet consists mostly of krill and plankton, along with many species of small fish such as herring. Their method of hunting is ingenious, involving great collaboration between different adults in a pod, and making for quite the spectacle, as you can see in this BBC exert below.
After weaning off its mother, the humpback calf will grow to sexual maturity in about 4-10 years, and full physical maturity a few years after that. The pattern of migration continues its entire life, cruising south during winter and back north for summer – which is when you can view them on an Alaskan adventure around May and June.
Beautiful, elaborate songs
Humpback whales are famous for their impressive vocal calls. Indeed, this series of cries, howls and other surreal tones are strung together in hugely complex songs, which have been noted as lasting anywhere from five minutes to hours. Even more impressive, these ballads travel great distances through the ocean’s waters, and can be heard sometimes hundreds of kilometres away. Scientists are still studying the precise function that these calls serve, but it is believed that they are partly social, and likely also designed to attract a mate.
Viewing real-life humpbacks
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, spring is one of the best times to witness humpbacks performing their intricate bubble net hunting ritual. Even more exciting, aboard the Wilderness Adventurer on Aurora’s Alaskan cruises, you have a high chance of seeing the whales for yourself, as the Inside Passage has the highest concentration of the mammals (around 500 individuals) in the state. Download a brochure to find out more about Aurora Expeditions’ Alaska’s Inside Passage cruises or contact our expert team.