Over the past few weeks, we’ve been researching whale watching cruises in Alaska, and we’ve been able to find plenty of nature and wildlife boating tours that involve whale watching in one way or another. However, we noticed that none of these cruises take place in the Bering Sea or further north, which led to our present concern: can you take a whale watching cruise in the Bering Sea, or really anywhere that isn’t southeast or south central Alaska? Are there whale watching cruises in the Bering Sea that sail from places like Dutch Harbor, Dillingham, Nome, and Saint Lawrence Island, to name of a few of the potential departure points?
We looked into these locations and more, going as far north as Barrow – the northernmost city in the United States – but were unable to turn up anything like a whale watching cruise, or a cruise that specifically focuses on sailing tourists around to look for whales. This is a bit surprising, as there are certainly whales in the Bering Sea, and in increasing numbers whales have been swimming further north, through the Bering Strait and up into the Chukchi Sea. Normally, these waters have been more or less the exclusive territory of arctic whale species, like beluga and bowhead whales, but as water temperatures warm, subarctic whale species like humpback, fin and killer whales have been able to move further north for summer feeding. These subarctic whales, especially humpback and killer whales, are the focus of basically all whale watching cruises in Alaska, and thus there seemingly could be whale watching cruises outside of the Gulf of Alaska, where the cruises all seem to be concentrated.
We suspect the dearth of whale watching cruises outside of southeast and south central Alaska is simply a function of the relative lack of people and tourism activity (or at least sea-based tourism activity) as you move further north in Alaska. The population density is certainly higher along the Gulf of Alaska, where there are several decent-sized towns with lots of nature and wildlife tour companies. The weather also isn’t as harsh in this region of Alaska, making things like whale watching cruises possible for a greater portion of the year. A lot of fishing takes place in the Bering Sea – Dutch Harbor is the nation’s top fishing port, for example – and this draws in tourists for sport fishing expeditions, but evidently this hasn’t given rise to other services for tourists, like whale watching cruises.
As we conclude, we should note that it is almost certainly possible to whale watch on a ship in the Bering Sea – you could charter a ship for this purpose, or spot whales on a fishing trip – but there don’t appear to be any companies that focus on whale watching cruises specifically. There are plenty such whale watching cruises in Alaska, but they aren’t in the Bering Sea or further north.