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Photos: Eye of the Whale

Humpback whale breaching.
Courtesy Olga von Ziegesar
Olga von Ziegesar photographing the damaged tail of Gullivera, a female humpback whale who has been in Prince William Sound since 1989.
Courtesy Olga von Ziegesar
Elf is an important male in the group of humpbacks known as Magellan's clan, found in Prince William Sound's Montague Strait.
Courtesy Olga von Ziegesar
A humpback named Kye was hit by a propellor, and his scars still show.
Courtesy Olga von Ziegesar
Three humpback whales swimming in Prince William Sound.
Courtesy Olga von Ziegesar
Magellan is a male at the center of a group of humpbacks known as "Magellan's Clan" in Prince William Sound since 1989. He's also been spotted at the southern end of his migration off Mexico's Baja Peninsula in the winter.
Courtesy Olga von Ziegesar
Olga von Ziegesar, principal Investigator and co-director of Eye of the Whale Research.
Courtesy Shelley Gill
Mother humpback whale playing with her calf.
Courtesy Olga von Ziegesar
Alaska Dispatch staff

Humpback whales, once hunted nearly to the point of extinction, are rebounding. In 2005, 20,000 whales were counted in the North Pacific, and they’re increasing at a rate of 7 to 8 percent a year. A humpback research group, The Eye of the Whale, estimates the population is approaching pre-whaling numbers.

The Eye of the Whale has documented two “clans” of whales in Prince William Sound. One, called the “Old Ladies,” includes two females often seen swimming side by side. Because of their drooping tails, the whales are estimated to be at least 70 years old. Humpbacks typically live 45 to 100 years.

MORE: PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND HUMPBACKS PAIRING UP