Tenakee Whale

Went with Larry on a trip to Tenakee today. As we rounded East Point into Tenakee Inlet, we noticed something different floating to the south. I thought it was some kind of big metal buoy with a lifting eye on it. Others thought it might be an overturned boat. As I idled over towards it, I looked through binoculars and………..it’s a dead whale with a raven on top.

This is the first dead whale I’ve seen up close.  It smelled a bit, but the smell was not overwhelming. As we were approaching the whale, a very live bull orca swam by at a distance. It did not seem interested in the carcass.  Tenakee being Tenakee, several of our passengers from Tenakee are on the whale entanglement response group or did other marine mammal work, so they all got busy taking photos of the whale, the gps position on the plotter screen, and speculating on why the whale may have died.

The whale was clearly a humpback whale, with long white pectoral fins, and it was floating belly up. About 10 to 15 feet of the pleated lower jaw was out of the water. At first I thought it was a juvenile whale. But as we came around to the rear of the whale, I could see the peduncle and the tail – 10 to 15 feet below the surface. So at about 30  feet, this seems to be an adolescent or young adult.

I wondered what this whale had seen in it’s life. From being born elsewhere- probably Hawaii – to it’s migrations to Alaska. Maybe it went back and forth to Hawaii most years, but maybe it stayed here some winters, as humpback whales do. I don’t know enough about humpbacks to tell it’s age, but they can live as long as we do, and maybe longer.

We off loaded people and goods at 2 beach locations in front of passenger’s homes. We arrived right at high tide, so lucky for the passengers to get their goods off loaded so close to their house for a short pack in. I’m still learning to drive the twin jets on the boat, and got backed in to one beach, but we were easily pushed off.

On the way home, we swung over to Corner Bay to pick up some yellow cedar heading to Juneau, and we were on our way.

On our way back to Juneau a couple hours later, a slight chop had replaced the flat calm seas we had on our way in. We could not find the whale again for the young mother and her toddler heading to Juneau with us to see. The whale may have drifted south, and we were heading north, and the chop made seeing it at a long distance more challenging.

We did sight what we thought was the same lone male orca whale we’d seen near the humpback whale, heading the same direction as we were.   Shortly after seeing the whale, I noticed the port engine was a little over normal temperature. I reduced speed to an idle, and turned off the port engine. Larry cleared out the intake screen, where I’d likely sucked up some debris when I got backed into the beach. I restarted the port engine and turned off the starbard engine and Larry cleared that one, too, just to be sure. That solved the port engine issue and we made our way home in about 2 hours. Another trip to Tenakee, and no two are the same.

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