Peninsula: PT research boat helps track humpback whales

PORT TOWNSEND — Every spring, Fred Sharpe heads north from Port Townsend Bay, where he rendevous with Slinky, Rubber Lips and other old friends in the waters of southeast Alaska.

Sharpe is the director of the Alaska Whale Foundation and captain of its 50-foot research vessel, Evolution, based in Port Townsend. Dedicated to the study of humpback whales, Sharpe plies the waters of Chatham Strait, south of Juneau, to document the behavior of a unique community of baleen whales.

“World-wide, humpbacks tend to be asocial beings, forming transient bonds,” Sharpe said. “This population forms friendships that drive the society and can last a lifetime.”

How Rubber Lips, Slinky and the humpbacks of Chatham Strait interrelate will be the focus of presentations Sharpe will make in Port Angeles, Sequim and Port Townsend this week. The presentations include videotapes, filmed by a “critter cam” attached to a whale’s back, of the humpbacks blowing bubble nets to corral schools of herring.

“It’s a process they have elevated to an art form,” Sharpe said. “They are bubble magicians.”

Sharpe gives talks on passenger ships during the summer and onshore presentations during the winter. He will be in Port Angeles on Tuesday, where he will present his program at 7:30 p.m. in the City Council chambers. On Wednesday, he will speak in Port Townsend at 7:30 p.m. at the Pope Marine Building at Water and Quincy streets. On Thursday he’ll speak at 7:30 p.m. at the Sequim Middle School.

A $5 donation at the door goes to support the work of the Alaska Whale Foundation.


The rest of the story appears in the Monday Peninsula Daily News. Click on SUBSCRIBE, above, to get the PDN delivered to your home or office.

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