The Seven Magnificent Species of Whales in Alaska
There are many reasons people love Alaska. The crisp air, the mountains, the glaciers, the wildlife, and of course, the whales. Yes, that’s right, whales. Tourists come from all over the world to try and catch a glimpse of these gentle giants breaches or slapping their tails. Here are seven of the most popular whale species in Alaska and where you’re most likely to find them.
1. Humpback Whales
Humpback whales are one of the most acrobatic of the whale species which makes them a real treat to watch. They’re known for their breaching and tail lobbing which can often be seen from many coastal towns in Alaska including Seward, Valdez, Homer, and Juneau. If you want to get up close and personal with these majestic creatures there are also whale watching tours available which will take you right into humpback territory. Just make sure to bring your camera!
2. Orca or “Killer” Whales
Despite their name, orcas are actually very gentle creatures (though they do prey on other marine mammals like seals). These black-and-white beauties can grow up to 32 feet long and weigh as much as 16,000 pounds! Orcas are highly social creatures and often travel in pods of up to 40 individuals. You can find them near Anchorage, Kodiak Island, Sitka, and Petersburg.
3. Gray Whales
Gray whales are filter feeders which means they strain huge amounts of water through their baleen plates to capture small fish, plankton, and crabs which they then eat. These guys are migratory so they travel long distances between their feeding grounds in Alaska and their breeding grounds in Mexico. You can see them near Cordova, Valdez, Seward, Homer, Kodiak Island, Petersburg, Wrangell, and Ketchikan.
4. Fin Whales
Fin whales get their name from their large dorsal fins which can be up to 6 feet tall! These speedy swimmers are known for being difficult to spot but if you’re lucky you might see one near Kodiak Island or Yakutat Bay.Adult fin whales can grow up to 85 feet long making them the second largest animal on earth after the blue whale (more on her later). They weigh an impressive 200 tons!
5. Blue Whales
Blue whales are true giants—they’re the largest animals ever known to have lived on earth! They can weigh up to 400 tons and grow up to 100 feet long. Their tongues alone weigh as much as an elephant! You might be lucky enough to spot one near Yakutat Bay or Glacier Bay though they’re more common in lower latitudes like Hawaii during winter months..
6. North Pacific Right Whales
Right whales got their name because they were considered the “right” whale to hunt due to their relatively slow swimming speed and tendency to float when killed (unlike other species of whale which sink). Fortunately for right whales, they’re now protected under law and numbers have increased slightly in recent years though they’re still critically endangered with only around 400 individuals left in the wild. You might be able to spot one near Kodiak Island or along the Aleutian Chain if you’re lucky..
7. Minke Whales
Minke whales are the smallest of the “great” whale species measuring in at around 30 feet long and weighing up to 10 tons. They got their name from a norse legend involving a mythological creature called a “minkegribb” which was said to haunt shipwrecks.. Despite their small size minke whales are still graceful swimmers and can often be seen breaching or slapping their tails out of sheer playfulness! You might spot one near Valdez or Glacier Bay National Park..
These seven magnificent whale species represent just a fraction of marine life in Alaska waters but they’re some of the most iconic creatures in the state nonetheless. So put on your warmest coat, pack your binoculars, and head on up to Alaska for an unforgettable whale watching experience!