While visiting Sitka, AK, Carol and I went on a marine wildlife excursion hoping to see a whale. Bingo! We enjoyed watching and photographing this beautiful Humpback. I happened to be in the right location on the boat to capture these images. I must say this kid from Mt. Pleasant, TX was duly impressed with seeing such a sea creature.
Whales’ “noses”, or blowholes, are on the top of their heads, so that they can just barely break the surface to breathe without rising too far out of the water. When inhaling, they flex a muscle which opens the blowhole and take in a big gulp of air. Then, they relax the muscle to close the blowhole, leaving them free to dive down beneath the surface of the water once more without drowning themselves.
It’s exhaling that’s the interesting part. When the whale resurfaces, they have to release the used up air back into the atmosphere just like all other mammals do. This results in a spout, but it isn’t water (at least not at first). The air inside the whale is typically quite warm from the whale’s body heat. When it’s exhaled, it meets the much cooler temperature of the air outside and immediately condenses, making it look like a spout of water.
A Humpback Whales fluke (tail) is like a human finger print. The marks on the fluke are unique to that whale. It is the way researchers can identify individual whales and track them each season. Small rounded marks from barnacles, chunks out of the fluke and teeth marks from predators make each tail unique and assist in identification by researchers.
The fluke of an adult Humpback Whale rising out of the water with sea water streaming off it is regarded as one of the best photos you can get and it certainly is impressive on a sunny day.