Humpback whale discovered on bow of cruise ship as it arrives in Alaska port

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement is investigating the death of a humpback whale that arrived in Ketchikan, Alaska, on Wednesday, Aug. 9.

On Thursday, a tugboat towed the whale, likely a juvenile, to Blank Inlet on Gravina Island for a necropsy to determine the cause of death.

The ship Grand Princess is run by Princess Cruises, which is part of the Carnival group. The company’s ships have whale avoidance programs that require changing course and speed if necessary.

“It is unknown how or when this happened, as the ship felt no impact,” said Princess Cruises officials in a statement. “It is also unknown, at this time, whether the whale was alive or already deceased before becoming lodged on the bow. No whales were sighted in close proximity to the ship, by the bridge navigation team, as it sailed towards Ketchikan overnight.”

The body of a juvenile fin whale was found on the bow of a Holland America Line cruise ship when it arrived in Seward in May 2016.

The 951-foot Grand Princess was built in Italy in 1998 and refurbished in 2016. The ship also underwent a 2011 refit in the Bahamas to resolve her tendency to sail high in the bow and to improve fuel efficiency. It can carry 2,600 passengers and sails along the West Coast from Mexico to Alaska, as well as Hawaii. In 1998, she was built as the largest passenger vessel in the world. Now the company’s Royal Princess carries that title with a capacity for 3,600 passengers.

About the author

Jessica Hathaway

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 13 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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