Whale 68: Discovery and Retrieval
On July 16, 2001, park biologists discovered the bloated body of an adult female humpback whale floating "belly up" near the mouth of Glacier Bay. The next day, her 45-foot long carcass was towed to the shore near Point Gustavus.
Once on the beach, park biologists examined the carcass more closely and noted extensive bruising near the left eye. This prompted questions regarding time and cause of death. Six days later a more thorough examination by marine mammal veterinarian, Dr. Frances Gulland, revealed multiple compound fractures at the base of the skull, indicating a collision with a large cruise ship. During the necropsy, several fetal bones were also found in the whale's peritoneal cavity, indicating she was probably four or five months pregnant when she died. Numerous biological samples were taken to help determine age, genetic relatedness to other whales, sex, and diet.
Who was this whale? Park biologists very quickly were able to identify the dead whale by using photo identification. Much like a fingerprint, humpback whales have distinct markings on their tail flukes that identify them as unique individuals. Using a catalog of whale photographs compiled by whale biologists, the park was able to identify this individual as Whale 68, aka "Snow." Often seen throughout Southeast Alaska and Hawaii, she was first photographed by pioneer researcher, Charles Jurasz, in 1975 in Glacier Bay. Jurasz nicknamed her "Snow," presumably because of the white dots on her flukes.
Did You Know?
During the summer months, moose can be observed submerging themselves in Blackwater Pond where they forage for succulent vegetation and find relief from swarming insects.