“Phoenix” is a Humpback Whale first documented near Wrangell, AK back in 2017. In 2019 August of 2019 Phoenix was observed again but this time much closer to Ketchikan. In May of 2020 Phoenix was seen as part of a trio of whales cruising nearby the cruise ship berths left vacant due to the pandemic of 2020.
In later October of 2020 Phoenix not only returned to Ketchikan but became a local celebrity as the whale developed a pattern of bubble net feeding right off the cruise ship berths. At the time of this caption Phoenix has graced Ketchikan almost daily for an entire month from just before Halloween all the way up to Thanksgiving and showing no signs of slowing down.
Phoenix is far from the first whale to visit the Tongass Narrows but no other local animal has quite captured the imagination of the town the way Phoenix has. Many residents are getting their first up close and detailed looks at a Humpback Whale, while residents with many whale encounters to their credit are seeing a local whale take up a consistent pseudo residency for the first time they can remember.
It is possible Phoenix has visited like this before but scientific methods of identifying individuals whales have been critical to this discovery. The techniques taught by marine mammal researchers and the technologies developed by organizations such as Happywhale have helped turn a good story into something greater. After the economic fallout of the COvID 19 pandemic Ketchikan has gone through some rough times economically. Phoenix is o badly needed morale boost for “Alaska’s First City”.