Today we arrived in Juneau. Whales were spotted off the sides of the ship this morning long before we arrived, and it was spectacular to watch one fully breach. Breaching is a typical part of the mating ritual, per the naturalist on board, and not commonly seen in Alaska (usually in Hawaii where the humpbacks migrate to each October). It may have been a calf learning what he needs to do once he starts his own mating rituals soon. Calves are born about 12 feet long weighing in at about 2,000 lbs and zero body fat, but then start to add upwards of 100lbs per day throughout their first year.
Upon arrival in port, I went out on a fun excursion that included both a visit to Mendenhall Glacier and whale watching. There I learned that every single humpback has a unique diagram within their skin on the bottom side of their tail...it's their "fingerprint" if you will. Researchers at NOAA here in Juneau photograph the whales and are able to track them that way, vs. tagging them or other methods. And while it isn't exactly known how long they all live, the average life expectancy is about 50 years. Females have one calf at a time, and usually have another calf every two to three years, and will continue to give birth for almost their entire life. Calves learn everything they need to survive within their first year of life, and are then essentially " on their own" from that point on, even though they tend to travel in pods.