Alaska Whales: Minke Whale

Alaska Marine Highway

Alaska's State Flower is the "Forget-Me-Not. Forget me not flowers are very fragrant in the evening and night time, though there is little or no scent in the daytime. They can be annual or perennial plants. Their seeds are found in small, tulip shaped pods along the stem to the flower.

There are eight species of whales that frequent the cold and icy waters of Alaska. The Beluga, Humpback, Gray, Orca, Bowhead, Blue, Right, and Minke whales.

The minke is the smallest of the baleen (filter-feeding) whales and is found throughout the world's oceans, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Minke whales grow to be about 25-30 feet  long, weighing about 6-7.5 tons.  Females are about 2 feet longer than males, as with all baleen whales. The largest minke whale was about 35 feet  long weighing 9.5 tons. Minke whales have a snout that is distinctively triangular, narrow, and pointed, which is how the Minke whale got its nicknames "sharp-headed finner" and "little piked whale". The minke whale's skin is very dark gray above and lighter below, sometimes with pale trapezoidal stripes behind the flippers on the top, and they have a characteristic white band on each flipper.

Another name for the minke whale is the Little Piked Whale. It is a fast swimmer, swimming at 16-21 mph, spending very little time on the surface. They are curious and have been known to keep up with and even approach ships. This whale can be tricky for whale watcher to spot, as they are small and easily hidden in a choppy sea.

Minke whales either travel singly or congregated in small pods of about 2-3 whales. Minke whales live at the surface of the ocean in all but polar seas. Minke whales, like all baleen whales, are seasonal feeders and carnivores, filtering out small polar plankton, krill, and small fish, even chasing schools of sardines, anchovies, cod, herring, and capelin.

As with other closely related species, minke whales are classified as "gulpers" in which the whale lunges at the prey – often at high speeds with its mouth open and throat grooves extended. The mouth is then closed expelling the engulfed water through the baleen plates and then the trapped prey is swallowed. This behavior occurs either at, or below the surface. The exact method of trapping an individual prey school varies by location and individual.

Minke whales breathe air at the surface of the water through 2 blowholes located near the top of the head. At rest, minke whales spout  about 5-6 times per minute. The spout of the minke whale is a very low, almost inconspicuous stream that rises up to 6.5 feet above the water. Minke whales start to exhaling before they reach the surface; this minimizes the blow.

Minke whales make the weirdest sounds. They are sort of metallic and have been called "Star Wars" sounds.

Minke whales spend spring and summer months in Alaska’s Kachemak Bay, Glacier Bay and Prince William Sound. They are distributed through out the pacific from Baja California in the winter months north to the Bering Sea and Chukchi seas in the summer. At times the minke whales are seen in Glacier Bay, and in the Gulf of Alaska by cruise ship passengers passing through during the spring and summer months. They prefer the icy waters in the northern oceans, more so than other baleen whales. They are found right up to the edge of the icepack in Polar Regions, sometimes becoming trapped in the ice fields.

As the larger whales have become depleted and protected the whalers have begun take the minke whale as a replacement. Scientists continue to examine the minke populations in the areas they are harvested. They note that the populations have actually increased as they have started eating food previously eaten by the depleted larger whale species. Current populations are about 100,000 minke whales in the North Pacific. The natural life span of minke whales is about fifty years.


the minke whale is found off the coast of Alaska

minke whales are the smallest Alaska whales

Alaska Whales:

There are eight species of whales that frequent the cold and icy waters of Alaska

Learn more about Alaska's whales

beluga whale is now endangered in Alaska nature Alask humpback whale Alaska grey whale
Beluga Humpback Gray Whale
Alaska orca whale also known as a killer whale alaska bowhead whale endangered great blue whale in Alaska waters
Orca Bowhead Blue Whale
endangered right whale in Alaska waters Alaska Minke whale  
Right Whale Minke