Weekly Whale Feature: 'Poisson'

Posted: Friday, June 11, 2010

The French word for fish is "poisson." This is where this whale gets her name.

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

Name: Poisson / Juneauite / NOAA No. SEAK 1447.

Gender: Female.

When to look: Poisson has been here at least every year for the last five years. She can be spotted as early as April and usually stays in local waters into the fall. Pictures of her in December, however, have been taken.

Where: This whale can be seen anywhere in the Juneau area, although she seems to favor the area between the Barlow Islands, Shelter Island, the Pass and the east side of Shelter Island from Aaron Island to Gull Island.

Markings: Poisson has a very big, broad, black fluke with just a few white marks.

Behavior: Like many of the regular whales in the Juneau area she is very fun to watch. Her dive times are usually from four to 10 minutes, and her fluke usually comes high out of the water before a deep dive. I have never seen this whale partake in bubble net feeding. Additionally, I have only seen her breach twice. She then she followed up with a few chin and pectoral fin slaps. This behavior happened at 4:06 p.m. on August 23, 2007, just north of the pass between Lincoln and Sentinel Islands. Besides this, I have witnessed very little extra activity. I have the feeling that Poisson likes other whales in the area with her, but I have seen her many times by herself.

Notes: Poisson had a very active calf in 2007, we named "Petite Poisson." I have many wonderful memories and pictures of it breaching and playing. It was quite the ham. But sometime after June 13, 2007, for some an unknown reason, Petite Poisson disappeared.

• 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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