When the herring are in season we often get to watch this group bubble netting behavior. The group of whales dive in a specific order, do their flipper-flashing bubble-net creating thing, and then appear as a mass, all eight or ten at once inside the boundaries of the net they created, mouths agape and then quickly closed to expel the extra water with their tongues, straining out the herring. They are so close together when they do this that from the surface it can be difficult to sort out one whale from the next. They pause for a moment or two on the surface, then re-line up to do it all again. Apparently when they are done for the evening, or when the fishing just isn’t that good, one of them will breach, then the rest will breach a few times, and everyone will go on their way. Andy refers to this as a “disassociation ritual” in his talk.
The Alaska Whale Foundation relies on college and grad students to collect a lot of the observational data they use. They have just acquired land up here to create more of a permanent center for field schools. I am very much wishing that they had been around when I was still college student.
So, anyone with a college student who is interested in Marine Biology should maybe check them out. (High school and college students interested in Marine Biology or Marine Ecology should also check into Sea Education Association - I worked for them for a bit and their programs are amazing).
In other news, while I was home I got certified in dry-suit diving. I am not a natural at dry suit diving, but I am practicing and getting better at it and I have now been diving twice up here.
In a dry suit.
About two years ago now, during my job interview for this position, the port-engineer asked me if I was a diver, and over the course of the conversation it became apparent that what he actually wanted to know was whether I was dry-suit certified so that I could dive in Alaska. I managed not to say what I was actually thinking, which ran along the lines of “no, of course I’m not certified to dry-suit dive, and only really crazy people dry-suit dive in Alaska, I’m also not a certified pilot of float planes”. And yet here I am. (And it was seeing the footage brought back by the undersea specialist last year in Alaska that convinced me to get my scuba certification to begin with - I am not thinking about what that implies).