Seward Whale Watching

Seward Alaska is the place to view hundreds of Humpback, Gray, Fin and Killer whales every spring.  In April and May Whales return to Resurrection Bay and the Gulf of Alaska, from their winter calving grounds in Hawaii and Mexico.  As the Whales congregate and transit through the Gulf of Alaska waters near Seward Alaska, and the nearby Fjords there is no better place to begin your whale watching adventure than Seward Alaska, and no better place to stay while in Seward than Hotel Seward.  Contact the staff at Hotel Seward to book your Hotel and Whale watching package today.  907-224-8001

Humpback Whale (Book your Whale Watching trip)

Common names: Humpback Whale
Scientific Name: Megaptera novaeangliae
Length: 40.5 feet for males and 42 feet for females but can reach up to 55 feet at times.
Weight: 25 to 40 tons and grayish in color.
Average life expectancy for adults: 45-50 years with the oldest humpback whales reported to live up to 95 years of age.
Travel speeds: up to 16 miles per hour with and average speed of 2-9 miles per hour.
Typical submersion times: as long as 30 minutes although most dives do not last longer than 15 minutes.
Habitat: Humpback whales live throughout the world’s oceans with the exception of the extreme northern arctic waters.
Diet: Humpbacks are baleen Whales and feeds on herring, other small fish, and krill.
Prince William Sound: approximately 100 whales.
Southeast Alaska, Inside Passage: Approximately 500 whales in the summer.
Conservation Status: Protected, The International Whaling Commission  gave them worldwide protection status in 1966.

The Humpback is characterized by it’s tapered head and unusually long pectoral fins.  They have the largest scalloped, winglike flippers of any whale species.  The Humpback whales mates during the summer in Alaskan Waters.  The Best time for Whale Watching and to view Humpback Whales out of Seward Alaska is May-September peaking in Mid June and August. Humpback whales can often be seen breeching, characterized by throwing themselves completely out of the water. You may also see Humpbacks swimming on their back with both flippers in the air or raising their huge fluke out of the water and slapping them on the water surface, also known as lobbing.

Humpback whales give birth during the winter months in Mexico,  Hawaii, and the Western Pacific.   Humpback Whales have a 11 to 12 month gestation period and a newborn calves at birth average roughly 2 tons in weight and approximately 12 feet in length.

Humpbacks can be found in matrilineal family groups of four to five called pods but generally travel and feed individually. While in Alaskan waters they eat one to one and a half tons of food a day. In winter months, the whales survive off of their fat supplies. A Humpback migrates about 14,000 nautical miles a year.

Gray Whale  (Book your Whale Watching  trip)
Common names: Gray Whale
Scientific Name: Eschrichtius robustus
Length: Adult Gray whales are about 36 to 50 feet long.
Weight: Adult Gray whales weigh 16 to 45 tons and Newborn calves are about 16 feet long and weigh about 1,500 pounds at birth.
Average life expectancy: Over 40 years and some may live as long as 70 years.
Travel speeds: up to 10 to 11 miles per hour with and average speed of 2-6 miles per hour.
Typical submersion times: 3 or 4 minutes but can last up to 15 minutes and dive to depths of 550 feet.
Habitat: Gray Whales range from Baja California to the Bering Sea.
Main Diet: amphipod crustaceans.
Conservation Status: Protected, In 1948 the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling banned all hunting of Gray whales except by aboriginal people.  Today there are estimated to be some 26,000 eastern North Pacific Gray whales.  However the Western North Pacific Gray whales are not doing as well with only about 100 animals left. All are now protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act while in the oceans surrounding the United States.

The name for the Gray whales comes from its mottled gray body color.  They have robust bodies that are mottled gray, marked with orange patches that are caused by parasitic whale lice. Their heads often have areas encrusted by barnacles. To spot this animal, look for a tall and bushy blow near shore as they feed in shallow water. Gray whales are the only baleen whales that are mainly bottom feeders and the most coastal of the baleen whales.  To feed, Gray whales fill their large mouths with mud from the sea bottom and filter it through their baleen to capture tube worms, plankton, mollusks, and other small crustaceans.   These whales lack a dorsal fin and show their tails when diving.

Gray whales are similar to Humpback whales with their migrating habits. Gray whales migrate between Baja California and the Bering and Chukchi seas each year, a distance of over 10,000 miles round-trip. They will deliver their calves in the warm, protected lagoons off the coast of Baja Gray   The Best  time for Whale Watching and to View Gray whales out of Seward Alaska is: Spring & Fall .  Peak Viewing Time: April & May.  Gray whales are usually alone or in small groups, called pods, however during feeding and mating season they form together in larger pods.

Fin Whale (Book your Whale Watching  trip)

Common names: Fin Whale
Scientific Name: Balaenoptera phusalus
Length: 69 feet for males and 74 feet for female.
Weight: 40 to 80 tons.
Average life expectancy for adults: 80 years
Travel speeds: up to 23 miles per hour with average speeds of 5-6 knots.
Typical submersion times: as long as 15 minutes although most dives average 6-15 minutes.
Habitat: Fin whales live throughout the world’s oceans.
Diet: herring, other small fish, and krill.
Conservation Status: There are estimates that between 14-18 thousand fin whales are in the north pacific. The International Whaling Commission gave Fin whales worldwide protection status in 1966 and they are listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1973.

Fin whales, also known as Finback whales, are the second largest mammals and among the fastest of all whales. The fin whale received its name due to the prominent fin on its back, near the tail. These streamlined whales have long, sleek bodies with small flippers and a v-shaped head that is flat on top. Each side of the whale is different in color. The underside, right lip and baleen plate are yellow-white. The main body, left lip and baleen plate are light gray. Other names for this whale are Finback, and Razorback.  They can be found in all the oceans, migrating from the warm waters during the winter to the colder waters during the summers. The Best time for Whale Watching and to view Fin whales out of Seward Alaska is: May – September. Like all baleen whales, they feed on krill and other small fish. A fin whale may eat two tons of food every day. Fin whales prefer the open ocean, and generally travel alone, although pods of 5-6 have been seen together. These great whales prefer temperate and arctic waters. Whale watchers can see Fin whales along the Alaska coastlines near Seward Alaska, the Aleutians, the Inside Passage and Prince William Sound. Most migrate from their arctic summer feeding areas to more temperate winter breeding grounds.  Fin whales are loners or sometimes are found in small groups.

The Minke Whale (Book your Whale Watching trip)

Common names: Minke Whale
Scientific Name: Balaenoptera acutorostrata
Length: 26 feet for males and 27 feet for female with a maximum length of 31 & 33 feet.
Weight: 5 – 10 tons.
Average life expectancy for adults: 50 years
Travel speeds: up to 16-21 miles per hour.
Typical submersion times: as long as 25 minutes although most dives average 10-12 minutes.
Habitat: Minke whales live throughout the North Pacific
Diet: Small schooling fish like capelin, cod, herring, Pollock and krill.
Conservation Status: Current populations are about 100,000 Minke whales in the North Pacific.  Minke whales are the most heavily harvested baleen whale today.  Scientists note that the populations have actually increased as they have started eating food previously eaten by the depleted larger whale species.

Minke whales are the second smallest baleen whale, about half the size of a Humpback whale. Another name for the Minke whale is the Little Piked Whale. Minke whales fall into two different species, the Northern and Southern or Antarctic variety. They are the most abundant baleen whale and can be found in all oceans and seas across the world.  In the northern oceans, Minke whales primarily eat plankton, herring, cod and mackerel.  Minke whales are dark grey to black with a white underside and a white patch on both front flippers. They often have a pale chevron behind their heads, a small dorsal fin, and a series of small ridges along the back near the tail.  Minke whales are stocky, having a layer of blubber several inches thick.

The Minke are usually solitary but may be seen in pods of up to three whales. They are normally quite shy and difficult to approach but some are curious and will come close to boats for a better look. The Best time for Whale Watching and to Viewing Minke whales out of Seward Alaska is: May – September.    To spot Minke whales look for a low, bushy blow at the water line as well as watching for the broad black back and small dorsal fin. When the animal dives, the dorsal fin is visible well above the water but the tail rarely breaks the surface.  Minke whales are distributed through out the pacific from Baja California in the winter months and in the summer months from the Gulf of Alaska coastal areas near Seward Alaska, Glacier Bay, the Bering Sea region north of the Aleutian chain, and right up to the edge of the icepack in Polar Regions, sometimes becoming trapped in the ice fields.

Killer Whales (Book your Whale Watching trip)

Common names: Orcas, aka Killer Whale
Scientific Name: Orcinus orca
Length: adult female up to 23-feet, adult male up to 27-ft, newborn calf up to 7-9 feet.
Weight: adult female over 8,000lbs., adult male over 11,000lbs., newborn calf up to 800 lbs.
Height of dorsal fin: adult female up to 2.5 feet, adult male up to 5-ft.
Average life expectancy for adults: female 50 years (80 to 90 years maximum life expectancy), male 30 years (50 to 60 years).
Travel speeds: max – 35 mph for short durations though they typical average 4 to 6 mph.
Typical submersion times: Averages 10-30 seconds.
Habitat: Found worldwide with largest populations living near coastal areas with cooler water temperatures.

Prince William Sound: approximately 250 animals in 15 pods.
Southeast Alaska, Inside Passage: Approximately 160 animals.
Kodiak to the Shumagin Islands: approximately 100 animals.
Bering Sea: approximately 100 animals.

Diet: Consists of fish, squid, seals, sea lions, birds, dolphins, porpoises and other large whales. An adult orca consumes on average of 100-300 pounds of food per day, depending on size and energy needs.  Nursing females will consume 2 to 4 times this amount.
Conservation Status: Being monitored but currently listed as stable.

Killer Whales, Orcas are the largest and most powerful member of the dolphin family and are not really a whale at all. Orcas are black in color with white undersides as well as white markings located behind the eyes and dorsal fin.  To spot Orcas, look for their black dorsal fins rising through the water. It is easier to spot adult males as their dorsal fins are tall and distinct. Also, scan the horizon for a rising puffs of steam known as a blow.   Orcas are social animals and live and travel in matrilineal family-related groups known as pods. Pods may have of up to 40 members, made up of both males and females. Orcas unlike Humpbacks, do not display any regular migration patterns. There are three main classifications of Orcas, offshore, resident and transient.  Resident pods that live in primarily in one area, seem to prefer fish whereas pods that are more transient prefer a variety of marine animals. They are successful hunters because the whole pod participates and works together while hunting.  The Best time for Whale Watching and to view Killer whales out of Seward Alaska is: May 5 – June 5 during this period several pods of orcas are found feed on a small salmon run that congregates south of Seward.  During the summer months, from June to September, the northern resident whales can generally be seen from northern Vancouver Island to Alaska. They prefer to live in coastal waters in cooler regions. One thousand have been identified and photographed in Alaskan waters. Transient whale pods can be seen all along the western coast of North America, from Glacier Bay in Alaska to the southern California coast. They are also prevalent off the Aleutians. Some killer whales ride cold currents south in the winter months.

Dall’s Porpoise (Book your Wildlife viewing trip)

Common name: Dall’s Porpoise.
Scientific Name: Phocoenoides dalliLength: 6-7 feet for males and females with a maximum length of 8 feet.
Weight: Average 270 pounds for both males and females.
Average life expectancy for adults: 20 years.Travel speeds: up 30 knots.
Habitat: Found only in the North Pacific, ranging from Baja California to Alaska and the Bering Sea and over to Japanese waters.
Diet: Squid, herring, sardines, capelin, deep-sea smelt and lantern fish.  The Dall’s porpoise feeds mostly at night eating about 30 pounds of food each day.

The Dall’s porpoise is named for the naturalist who first discovered them, William. Dall, member or the elite 1899 crew of scientists aboard the S.S. George W. Elder, during the Harriman Alaska Expedition, credited with the discovery Harriman Fjord in the Prince William Sound. The Dall’s porpoise coloration is rather like that of an Orca.  The main body  is very dark grey to black with very demarcated white patches on the flank that begin some way behind the flippers, which are small and close to the head. The dorsal fin is set just back from the middle of the back and sits up erect. The upper part of the dorsal fin has a white to light grey “frosting”. The fluke has a similar frosting. The adult fluke curves back towards the body of the animal, which is another distinguishing feature The head is rounded and small while the body is muscular and powerfully built.  Dall’s porpoise are attracted by fast moving vessels and love to swim at high speeds and are often seen bow riding alongside Sightseeing boat in Resurrection Bay. Dall’s porpoise are seen year round in Seward Alaska and nearby waters. They prefer cooler water temperatures between 36 and 60 degrees.  Dall’s porpoise congregate in pods of as many as 200 during feeding times but usually travel in smaller groups of 10 to 20.