An investigation has been launched into the near miss between Holland America Line’s cruise ship, the Eurodam, and a pod of whales feeding in Alaska.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association is investigating claims the ship was warned twice whales were in its way.
In a video posted to Facebook by Brent Kidd Palmer, the Eurodam is seen passing in close proximity to the whales while the ship was en route to Juneau.
It appears that video was shot from a nearby vessel and in the video, a voice says that they contacted the ship twice to warn them about approaching the whales.
“There he goes steaming right over the top of where they just surfaced. Hasn’t even bothered to slow down yet,” says a voice in the video.
An angry storm broke on social media.
Make this visible! Holland America Line after we radioed them to let them know they were on course to run right through a group of humpback whales feeding! Absolute disregard for the marine mammals protection act ! Or the safety and well being of the whales ! We recorded ya hailing them to tell them there were whales directly ahead the #Eurodam decided not to take our warnings knowing what these boats draft ! #marinemammalrescue #cruiseshipspotting #hollandamerica #hollandamericacruise #mmp #savethewhales🐳 #protecttheocean #protecttheearth #saveourplanet #makehollandamericafamous
Posted by Kiara O’Reilly Jones on Tuesday, June 25, 2019
“Our NOAA Office of Law Enforcement received a report Monday morning that the Holland America Line cruise ship Eurodam may have made contact with a pod of humpback whales as it was coming into Juneau, Alaska,” Julie Speegle, NOAA public affairs officer, told USA TODAY. “Investigators have received a video of the incident and are reviewing it. They have also made contact with the cruise company regarding the incident.”
NOAA’s Marine Life Viewing Guidelines stipulate that “vessels to remain 100 yards away from humpback whales in Alaska waters, when viewing marine mammals by watercraft.”
The guidelines also state, “avoid excessive speed or sudden changes in speed or direction near whales, dolphins, or porpoises. When encountering marine mammals, slow down, operate at no-wake speed. Put your engine in neutral when whales approach to pass.”
In a statement, Holland America Line said crew observed the pod bubble feeding ahead of the ship and altered its course.
“On June 24 at 6:40 a.m., Eurodam was en route to Juneau and slowing to pick up a pilot when the bridge watch observed a pod of humpback whales bubble feeding clear of the port bow near Kingsmill Point. A nearby vessel also alerted the bridge to the pod. Following proper protocols, the captain altered course by 10 degrees to create more distance between the ship and whales, allowing them to safely pass. No announcements were made as it was early in the morning,” says the statement.
“Holland America Line ships sail while following a comprehensive Whale Strike Avoidance program developed in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Parks Service. Ships have clear guidelines on how to operate if whales are sighted nearby, which include altering course and reducing speed as required.”
In 2017, a Princess Cruises ship was found with a marine mammal lodged on its submerged bulbous bow, a device designed to avoid wave-making while it was pulling into Ketchikan.
Also in 2016, another HAL ship, the Zaandam, was found with an endangered juvenile fin whale, also on the bulbous bow of the ship.
According to procedures, a veterinary pathologist undertakes a necropsy to determine the cause of death of the whales, whether they were impaled or if they were already dead when the ships pick them up.