Weekly Whale Feature: 'Crack Tail'

Posted: Friday, June 04, 2010

This whale gets its name from the crack on the right upper side of the fluke.

Courtesy Of Jay Beedle / For The Juneau Empire
Courtesy Of Jay Beedle / For The Juneau Empire

Name: Crack Tail / NOAA No. SEAK 1075

Gender: Female, born in 1986.

When to look: Crack Tail has been in local waters at least every year for the last five years. She arrives as early as March and usually stays into the fall.

Where: Anywhere in the Juneau area, although the area between Portland Island, the sand spit near south Shelter Island, Favorite Reef and Admiralty Island tend to be her favorite. She seems to especially favor in front of the sand spit.

Markings: Crack Tail's fluke is almost entirely black with some white scratches on each side of the tail. But this whale is perhaps most easily identified by the crack on the right side of her fluke located on the top right trailing edge. She also has a very recognizable dorsal fin; it's square-shaped.

Behavior: Crack Tail is absolutely fun to watch. Her dive times are usually from four to 10 minutes apart, and her fluke usually comes high out of the water before a deep dive. I saw her partake in bubble net feeding only one time on August 17, 2007. In addition, I saw her breaching on only one day in the past five years. The event happened the summer of 2009 in Young Bay. On July 12, 2006 she did tail lobs a few times near the Barlow Islands, besides these moments, she exhibits very little special activity. Crack Tail can be found feeding by herself or with another whale, but it is not always the same whale.

Notes: Crack Tail has had a calf with her three years in a row now - every year from 2008 to present. This is very unusual.

Quick fact: Calves usually put on the best show of the humpback whales around Juneau. They can be seen breaching, tail-lobbing, chin-slapping, pec-slapping and just all around playing. In 2008, Crack Tail's calf was nick named "Energizer Bunny" because it just kept going and going and going. December 4, 2009 was the first time I saw her without a calf since the spring of 2008.

• The "Weekly Whale Feature" is compiled by Jay Beedle, a longtime Juneau resident who makes his home on Shelter Island. He is a photographer and co-owns Harv and Marv's Outback Alaska which offers whale watching tours during summer months. For more information about his photography contact Gretchen Pence at gretchenpence@islandimagesalaska.com or at 789-0089.

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