Two hundred meters away, a humpback whale breaches. But it’s doing more than breaching—it’s rocketing into the air before it crashes down, creating a thunder that echoes off the surrounding cliffs and through my chest. Before diving back into the depths, it slaps its forked tail on the water over and over.

My sea-kayaking guide, a 10-year veteran of Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park, says he’s never seen a display like this. “Maybe it’s calling a mate or just acting playful,” he speculates.

Or maybe, like me, the whale senses that something is amiss […]

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