Summer is not the only time to embrace Sitka’s connection to our vast oceans and the inhabitants. November’s annual Sitka WhaleFest, hosted by the Sitka Sound Science Center, celebrates marine life through a science symposium, art, wildlife cruises and so much more!
The Art of the Whale
Each year the festival has a different theme—2023's theme is "Sound Science: Voices from the Ocean",—and the building blocks of the four-day weekend are built around that theme. The event kicks off on a Thursday night with a film festival—with a film or films fitting the marine science theme—and a marine art reception, filled with pieces created by local students. Friday, Saturday and Sunday the science symposium, the core of Sitka WhaleFest, takes place. It features multiple talks daily by renowned scientists. In between talks participants can shop the marketplace or enjoy some treats from the café. A full list of keynote speakers and schedules is available online.
Wildlife Cruises, Cocktails & More
And, of course, you can get out on the water to look for actual whales. Saturday and Sunday offer wildlife cruises, with scientists on board to interpret whale behavior and talk about the local ecosystem.
The Marine Mingle cocktail hour and the Feeding Grounds Banquet, are also part of the festivities. There’s also a fun run that starts and ends at Sitka’s Whale Park and live music throughout the weekend. You can buy admission passes that cover the whole weekend, or purchase a la carte tickets for specific talks and events.
A Festival Rooted in Research and the Community
In addition to events for the general public, the Sitka Sound Science Center facilitates college and university-affiliated programs during the weekend of WhaleFest. This includes visiting scientists in the classrooms.
While the festival has been around since the 1990s, it joined with the Sitka Sound Science Center in 2012. Year-round, the Center is a marvelous place to learn about local marine life, from its deep-sea aquarium exhibits to touch tanks with local urchins, sea stars and anemones.
In the end, the goal of the Sitka WhaleFest is to present scientific findings and research in an engaging and fun way that is accessible to all. The success of that goal is why WhaleFest is beloved by Sitka and the science community.