Frederick Sound, Alaska

The whales are talking to me. Or maybe about me. It’s hard to say.

Listening in through a hydrophone dangling down into the water, I hear a trippy chorus. Equal bird chips, armpit farts and creepy satanic music.

Half a hundred humpbacks have gathered in a slow motion feeding frenzy in Frederick Sound, feasting on a massive plankton bloom that has turned the cold water here a cloudy green. They breathe in loud exhalations and gasps through blow holes, then take one final gulp of air before arching their backs, gracefully lifting their tails and diving. They swim down toward the sea floor 300 feet below, then circle back up, blowing circle of bubbles to concentrate the phytoplankton and krill. In the mirror calm sea, you can see and hear the bubbles percolating on the surface. They emerge with a sigh, their massive gullets filled with greenish goo.

Given the whales’ bulk, strength and speed, I feel like they’re not really living up to their potential here. The graceful ballet is lovely and serene, but I miss the dramatic of humpback group feeding, with whales lunging out the water in a massive hurling sprawl. Then again, subtlety is often wasted on me.

After an hour or two of eavesdropping on their underwater conversation, I start to imagine I understand what they’re saying.

“Affordable health care is a fundamental right.”

“Glenn Beck is a doucebag.”

“You’re our favorite photographer. This week, anyway.”

I knew I liked these guys.

As more hours pass and dark clouds roll in, their voices turn needling and nagging.

“You call that a job?”

“When was the last time you called your mother?”

“That’s a nice boat you got there. It would be a shame if anything was to happen to it…”

Before things turn menacing, a pod of orcas swim past, pinging the krill eaters with their sonar. The scare sends one of the lazily playing calfs into a fit of breaching.

Jumping whales? Now we’re talking. It might not be subtle, but it works for me.

Photographed August 9, 2010 with a Canon 1D IV and 500mm f/4 Lens

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One Response to “Frederick Sound, Alaska”

  1. Pat Morrissey says:

    That sky looks like a map of South East Asia!

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