Probe after dead whale found on bow of cruise ship
US marine experts have launched an investigation after a cruise ship entered an Alaska port with the carcass of a humpback whale on its bow.
The 949ft Grand Princess, from the Princess Cruises fleet, pulled into Ketchikan on Wednesday morning with the whale lodged on its submerged bulbous bow - a device designed to avoid wave-making.
Princess spokesman Brian O'Connor said the company was surprised and saddened to discover the whale.
"It is unknown how or when this happened as the ship felt no impact," he said.
"It is also unknown, at this time, whether the whale was alive or already deceased before becoming lodged on the bow."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating the incident.
Mr O'Connor said navigators spotted no whales near the ship as it sailed overnight towards Ketchikan, near the southern tip of the Alaska Panhandle just north of British Columbia.
Photos indicated that the whale, said by the Ketchikan Daily News to be about 20ft, might be a juvenile.
The ship, with a capacity of 2,600 passengers and a crew of 1,150, was starting its third day of a 10-day round-trip cruise that originated in San Francisco.
The cruise line had a comprehensive whale avoidance programme, Mr O'Connor said.
Crews have guidelines on how to operate after spotting whales and alter courses and reduce speed to avoid them.
Ships must not approach within 100 yards of humpback whales and must limit observation time to 30 minutes, Mr O'Connor said.
Vessels near humpback whales are required to proceed at a "slow, safe speed" of 10 knots or below, he added.
NOAA Fisheries spokeswoman Julie Speegle said t hree distinct populations of humpbacks swim in Alaska waters.
The Western North Pacific population remains endangered, the Mexico population is listed as threatened and the Hawaii population is no longer listed.
Whales from the three populations overlap in feeding grounds, Ms Speegle said.
A necropsy - animal autopsy - will be held to determine the cause of the whale's death.
Ketchikan director of ports and harbours Steve Corporon said a tugboat towed the whale eight miles to Blank Inlet on Gravina Island for the procedure.
It is the second time in two years that a whale has been carried on the bow of a cruise ship into an Alaska port.
An endangered fin whale was spotted on the bulbous bow of Holland America's Zaandam in May 2016 as it prepared to dock in Seward.