SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska



Front Page Photo

Point Alava Humpback Whale
Photo By Carl Thompson


May 22, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - Sunday was a great day for whale viewing - humpback whale viewing that is. This humpback whale was photographed out near Point Alava on Revillagigedo Island.

jpg Humpback Whale Flukes

Humpback Whale's Flukes
Photograph by Carl Thompson©
To purchase this photo, contact Carl at

Humpbacks at times will stick their tail out of the water into the air, swing it around, and then slap it on the water's surface; this is called lobtailing. It makes a very loud sound. The meaning or purpose of lobtailing is unknown, but may be done as a warning to the rest of the pod. Humpbacks lobtail more when the seas are rough and stormy. Slapping a fin against the surface of the water is another unexplained humpback activity.

Humpback whales normally swim 3-9 mph, but can go up to 15-16.5 mph in bursts when in danger. Feeding speeds are slower, about 1.2-3.5 mph.

jpg Humpback Whale blow

Humpback Whale Blows
Photograph by Carl Thompson©
To purchase this photo, contact Carl at

They are the noisiest and most imaginative whales when it comes to songs. They have long, varied, complex, eerie, and beautiful songs that include recognizable sequences of squeaks, grunts, and other sounds. The songs have the largest range of frequencies used by whales, ranging from 20-9,000 Hertz. Only males have been recorded singing. They sing the complex songs only in warm waters, perhaps used for mating purposes. In cold waters, they make rougher sounds, scrapes and groans, perhaps used for locating large masses of krill (the tiny crustaceans that they eat).

Humpback whales have a life expectancy of 45-50 years. It is estimated that there are over 10,000-15,000 humpback whales world-wide. Humpback whales are an endangered species.

Carl Thompson©2006

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Ketchikan, Alaska