Chukchi Sea Food Chain

“Have you seen any animals?”

“Just birds,” I responded to my dad before hanging up and continuing on with my school work.

A few moments after that conversation, my roommate returned home from walking her dog.

“There are seals popping up in the channel!”

I was immediately out of my seat, eager to see these new animals that were showing their faces. I had never seen anything this far north apart from various bird breeds. Success! They popped up all over the channel, but the waves were rough and they were hard to spot.

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A few days later, with beautiful highs in the 50sºF. I called my parents again, as I grabbed my camera and made my way over to the edge of the island. Students were out there with fishing poles, and I wanted to see if there were any salmon jumping around the channel.

As I switched from a phone call with my parents, to a phone call with the airline company, and then dialed my sister and put her on speaker phone, the fish started jumping like crazy. Not only would they jump once and disappear, but they practically skipped themselves across the channel, as if they were playing a childhood game to see how many skips they could achieve.

The fish were jumping up in all directions when seals started appearing. It is no wonder to me that they made their way in. I had seen them in the channel before and with all of the fish around, they were having a dinner feast. They continued to make themselves visible all over the channel and into the lagoon.

After I had been watching the animals for a while and trying to snap pictures (and loosing my lens cap down a hole of no return in the large rock wall), I saw a large black figure breech in the distance.

“AHMAGASH” I’m sure that is what my exclamation sounded like to my sister on the other end.

“What happened?” Her voice came across worried. A celebratory call had turned into a serious one and my response didn’t match the tone we had set.

“I THINK I JUST SAW A WHALE!” That was when my own freakout began.

“Take a picture for me!” My sister is a bigger fan of whales than I am and so our excitement began to play off of each other, while we’d return to the serious discussion intermittently.  I was freaking out because I wasn’t sure that I had seen a whale. She was consoling me and telling me to claim it anyway.

Then I saw it again. I almost cried with excitement.

When we got off the phone, I rushed home to research.

Feeling like an idiot realizing that the whales I knew frequented the area (bowheads and belugas) didn’t have dorsal fins, I went through a generic google search. It turns out that Orcas travel up to the Chukchi and begin migrating south in the fall as the ice expands and pushes them out. Orcas eat fish and seals, which means the end of the food chain had arrived to eat the lesser beings. I had seen the food chain in action all a two minute walk from my bedroom. (Also, if it isn’t an Orca, please let me know! I’d love to do research about whatever large marine mammal was visible that day!)

Edited to improve visibility.

Now, I dream about whales and keep an eye out for them every time I’m at the kitchen sink or in the living room. My goals of whale spotting in Alaska have been accomplished, but I still freak out every time I’m washing dishes and I can watch seals pop up in the channel. I don’t think that that part will ever get old.

To continue the food chain, while I sat out watching these animals, hunters from the village showed up and tried to “catch” a seal.

For more information on Orcas in Alaska, click here!


This blog post is 100% brought to you with the newly installed internet in my house! You heard me! I FINALLY HAVE INTERNET AT HOME! (A topic to be discussed later!)

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