I have been photographing Humpback Whales since I first went to Hawaii back in 2008; however I had never experienced Humpbacks like I did in the summer of 2018. My wife, Tracy and I received a call from our good friend Suze who lived on the west coast and is an dedicated advocate for the Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Suze was organizing a September trip onboard the Achiever; Raincoast’s Research sailing yacht, with some fellow real estate agents and was wondering if we wanted to join the group.
September came quickly and we boarded our twin turboprop aircraft and took off for Bella Bella on the central west coast of British Columbia.Within a couple of days we were deep into the waterways of the Great Bear Rainforest. It wasn't difficult to find inspiration within this absolutely magnificent wilderness.
As a wildlife conservation artist, this was a dream come true. Between the Grizzly bears and their newly born cubs, Humpback whales, Harbour Seals, Sea Lions, Dall’s Porpoises and hundreds of Bald Eagles, it was difficult to decide in which direction I should point my lens.
Throughout our excursion we witnessed several pods of Humpback Whales using the “bubble net” feeding method to feast on the Herring. Watching these magnificent creatures work in unison to catch their meal was truly inspirational and became the idea behind my first Artistic Cartography piece for Raincoast. Listening to them, via the sonar that Captain Nick dropped over the side, still makes the hair on the back of neck stand on end and solidified the artistic idea that this hunting method had to be painted.
Click on the video above to hear the pure excitement of these massive mammals as they come to the surface to capture the herring that they have surrounded.
The method of feeding used above is called "bubble feeding" or "bubble-net feeding".
Bubble-net feeding is a cooperative hunting strategy that occurs within a group of whales. It is a complex, highly synchronized set of behaviours that involve communication and cooperation, demonstrating signs of high social intelligence.
The pod of whales dive deep below schools of fish and use bubbles blown from their blowholes to stun and trap fish closer to the surface. One whale generally leads the effort followed by the rest of the group. The leader will usually be responsible for blowing the bubbles and the other members will surround the fish, following them to the surface by swimming in spiral patterns to keep the fish trapped.