Southeast Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve usually gets 150+ cruise ship visits annually.
According to National Park Service wildlife biologist, Chris Gabriele, that means 600,000+ tourists.
But then the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic cancelled the entire 2020 Alaskan season. That made waters quieter, and the humpback whales took notice.
At a December 9 meeting of the American Geophysical Union, Gabriele said they had seen them "out in the middle of the channels, taking naps, socializing, feeding with others.”
“I heard a lot of long exchanges between the whales including what I think may have been a mother and calf.”
Underwater acoustics and their effect on marine mammals has been part of Gabriele's whale research in Southeast Alaska that has spanned nearly 30 years.
In 2020, she and a team redoubled efforts to make underwater recordings at the middle and moth of Glacier Bay to observe "the effects of relative quiet on marine mammals."
Gabriele said while the virus had forced people to socially distance, it had been the opposite for marine mammals.
“It’s like this horrible pandemic confined us humans into really small spaces but gave the whales back a lot of room to roam both physically and acoustically.”