PETERSBURG, Alaska -- Sitka, another ethnic town in southeastern
Alaska, holds its annual Whalefest in November.
Petersburg residents said that is because the whales winter
there and summer here.
"In the summer they come inland," said Dave Berg, owner of
Viking Travel in Petersburg.
Reinforcing the argument that Petersburg is a great place to
view whales, a team of researchers from the Alaska Whale Foundation
has been gathering data on the whales' communication and feeding
habits, genetic and social organization, prey manipulation and
general whale identification.
The AWF, headquartered in Seattle, had been researching
humpbacks here for about 10 years.
Whales normally do not form bonds, but they do team up in a
feeding technique known as bubble-net feeding.
Berg described bubble-net feeding this way:
"They find a school of herring and, while the other whales wait
off to the side, one will swim around the school and emit air from
its blow hole in a pattern that confuses the fish.
"All of the whales then come up under the fish in the center of
the bubble net, which is 25 to 40 yards across, with their mouths
The AWF team also is studying the raucous feeding calls the
The hearing of the herring is typically acute and the screams
seem to emanate at the maximum frequency range for that sound,
according to the researchers.
They believe the whales dive down below the herring schools and
use the sounds to disorient their prey.
"We have great whales," said Linda Quarles of the Petersburg
Chamber of Commerce.