Update #2: about the Death of Baby Whale “Tango.” A week or so ago we wrote to you about the death of Baby Tango, a baby whale here near Juneau.
Officials determined Tango had been struck and killed by a boat or ship. They launched an investigation. This may take a long time, they said.
So we reached out to a friend, one of the operators of a Juneau whale watching tour. “What is the “word in the harbor” of what ship hit and killed the baby whale?”
“Well,” he said, “an Alaska State Ferry reported striking something. They were in the right place at about the right time.”
This is pure conjecture, of course. And, if a ferry hit a baby whale named Tango, he/she may already have been dead or injured.
The Alexander Archipelago and the pristine waters around Juneau have been for eons the summer home for a small group of humpback whales: a peaceful and food rich place to rear their young.
But the explosive increase of cruise ship tourism now brings nearly 2 million visitors to our tiny town in summer. Tourists want to see whales, go fishing, visit the glacier… see anything. I think visitors understand the “Alaska Experience” is fragile and at risk.
Whale watching has become big business around here. In summertime there are over 70 boats in Juneau, large and small, that will take you whale watching for a fee.
Juneau’s rapidly receding Mendenhall Glacier is another favorite of visitors. It’s tiny visitor center was overrun with tourists this summer. So they want to build something big and new to accommodate all the guests… all hungry for a taste of the Last Frontier.
Don’t get us wrong. we understand. we love seeing whales, as we often do, when we travel to our homestead and summer studio on a small remote island near Juneau.
But it does worry us a little. And positive steps are being taken to help to protect these gentle giants of the ocean. But will it be enough?
As our readers know, the loss of the frontier way of life due to tourism and the effects of climate change are a favorite topic of ours.
–Devita and Ross (Juneau, Alaska)