National Geographic : 1984 Jan
ALASKAS SOUTHEAST An Incredible Feasting of Whales PHOTOGRAPHIC ESSAY BY AL GIDDINGS OCEAN IMAGES, INC. W ITHOUT WARNING, a 40-ton waterfall hurtles from Frederick Sound off Alaska's Admiralty Island as a humpback whale breaches (facingpage). For three days my film crew and I, with observers Cynthia D'Vincent and Russell Nilson on their research vessel, Varua, had front-row seats as eight humpbacks displayed astonishing behavior while feeding on a rich pasture of krill nourished by upwelling currents. Hour after hour the eight remained together, repeatedly performing a ballet- ROSEMARYCHASTNEY.OCEANIMAGES,INC. (RIGHT) like maneuver that looked to us like a means of cooperative feeding. We learned to take our cue from a hissing sound-as if from a great frying pan-made by krill and herring at the surface. When that hissing suddenly ceased, we tensed and tried to decide where to aim our cameras. A few seconds later came a thunderous roar as eight whales in circular formation, mouths agape, lunged for the sky. Following such a display, one whale (above), dubbed Jabba for a grotesque Star Wars character, sinks back to strain krill from its bulbously distended throat.