…To Teach Them Whales to Dance

February 2, 2008

Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica

I am used to photographing whales, but not this way.  I am either in a small boat at sea level or on the second deck of a two deck Allen Marine catamaran.  But on Prinsendam I am outside on 13 deck.  Since we load tenders from 4 deck that means I am nine stories up.  The whales are at a greater distance but it means that sometimes I am looking down on them and in the clear Antarctic water that means I can see them submerged.   You can see their white side fins taking on the bluish tint of the water and the ice.  Looking down on a whale when it blows you see the water droplets hit the sea all around the whale almost framing it.  The whales we were watching in Wilhelmina Bay and Paradise Harbor were very active, lunge feeding.  They often attracted sea birds to pick up the pieces left after the lunge.  They acted somewhat differently from the whales I know in Southeast Alaska.  When you see flukes in Southeast Alaska it generally means the whale is down for five or more minutes.  Not so here.  Whales show flukes on a shallow dive and come back up quickly.  This made taking pictures of them very easy.  There were lots of them.  Sitting 9 stories up looking across the bay I could see spouts, splashes, lunges and breaches all around me.  And they were active, splashing with their side fins, lunging, playing in the bow wake, diving under us and breaching, lot of breaching.  Our second day in Antarctica was about scenery, whales, and penguins.  (See next posts.)

There’s an old Clancy Brothers Song with the line “Some that’s bound to Bengal Bay to teach them whales to dance.  Thanks Chris Berg for spotting me the lyric.  

There’s some that’s bound for New York town
and some that’s bound for France
Heave away me Johnny, heave away
And some that’s bound for the Bengal Bay
To teach them whales to dance
Heave away me Johnny boy, we’re all bound to go

These whales were dancing.

3 thoughts on “…To Teach Them Whales to Dance

  1. A couple of questions for you, Rich. What camera/lens are you using? These look like humpbacks. Are they?

  2. They are humpbacks. I was using a Pentax K50 camera with a Pentax 50-200 zoom lens. The camera is water resistant and rated for -14C so I use it for Aurora in Alaska.

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