Princess Ship Hits Whale in Alaska

A 116,000-ton Princess Cruises ship operating in Alaska has struck a whale. Federal authorities are investigating.

The dead whale, believed to be a juvenile humpback, was discovered on the bulbous bow of the 2,670-passenger Sapphire Princess as the ship cruised from Ketchikan to Juneau, two of the most popular Alaska ports.

It's the second such incident involving the ship in just over a year.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) spokeswoman, Julie Speegle, tells the Juneau Empire, the ship was south of Juneau near Tracy Arm, when the whale became lodged on the bow.

The ship contacted the U.S. Coast Guard and National Marine Fisheries Service, which contacted NOAA, and federal authorities responded. Under their direction and assistance, the whale was removed and taken ashore inside Stephens Passage, south of Douglas Island, Princess says.

NOAA is conducting a necropsy on the animal. Speegle says the whale appears in photos to be a juvenile humpback.

In a statement, the cruise line says, "We were surprised and concerned by the discovery, as the ship felt no impact. It is unknown how or when this could have happened as we were not aware that any whales were sighted in close proximity to the ship when the whale was discovered."

The line adds it has "strict whale avoidance procedures in place" when its ships are in the vicinity of marine life.

The ship continued to Juneau, arriving about three hours later than planned.

The Sapphire Princess is on a 7-day Inside Passage cruise, round-trip out of Seattle.

The incident is eerily similar to a purported strike by the same ship on July 25, last year.

In that case, the ship docked in Vancouver with a dead, 70-ton Fin whale attached. It was later determined the whale was already deceased when it collided with the ship.

Photo, suzumiyaharuka, flickr

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