Humpback Whales

Ever seen a humpback whale? Want to see one? Just come to Ketchikan, Alaska!Ketchikan is the perfect place to whale watch because it’s situated on the Inside Passage where upwards of 500 humpback whales may be spotted during the spring, summer, and autumn.(1)

What type of whales are they?

Humpbacks are baleen whales which means they use baleen (straw-like fibers) instead of teeth to filter the sea creatures that make up their diet. When in the Inside Passage they consume lots of herring and salmon fry and when in other waters they are known for eating krill (very small shrimp) and other small fish. They herd their prey together and gulp and consume them through their baleen.

When do they migrate?

During winter, some humpbacks will winter over in the Inside Passage and others will travel west to Hawaii(2) or south along the West Coast. In spring when the weather starts to warm up in the Northern Hemisphere, the whales that migrated for the winter will travel back east or north to the oceans around Alaska, Washington, and Canada.

What do they look like?

Humpback whales grow to be just under 50 feet long. They are also black with patches of white on their belly, throat, and flukes (the two wing-like sections of the tail) and they weigh about 35 tons.

How do they behave?

When you see them, they may simply be surfacing and shallow diving as they travel along or they may be engaging in behaviors such as:

Spyhopping: Poking their heads out of the water.
Breaching: propelling their bodies up out of the water.(3)
Lobtailing: Lifting their flukes out of the water and slapping them against the water’s surface.

They perform these behaviors for a multitude of reasons, including mating, food gathering, playing, etc.

And while humpbacks sleep in the water, in 49 years Captain Nick has observed a humpback whale sleeping only once.

Schedule your tour today for next spring, summer, or fall to see some of the world’s greatest creatures: humpback whales!

If you would like to see the orcas, schedule a trip on one of our charters and you might get the chance to spot these magnificent creatures.


1 Alaska Department of Fish and Game “Humpback Whales”. Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Retrieved 6 December 2021.

2 “Alaska’s Best Whale Watching”. State of Alaska
. Retrieved 6 December 2021.

3 “Whale Behaviors”. NOAA: Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Retrieved 6 December 2021.