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Gray Whale

Gray Whale Migration Update: March 25, 1998

Today's Update Includes:

Latest Migration News
The first mother-calf pair is sighted on the Oregon coast. Observers there believe the migration peaked last week. The gray whale migration is now spread along the entire West Coast. Sightings are being reported from California to British Columbia, over a range of approximately 1,090 miles(1,754 km ). In Alaska, the first grays should be spotted any day, according to Susan Payne in Kodiak. Today's report includes the latest news from our observation posts along the migration trail.

Heading NORTH?
But wait, as you'll read below, Laura Gorodezky gives the compass readings of the 53 whales she spotted from an aerial flight over the Santa Barbara Channel. Find the Santa Barbara Channel on a map, (34N, -120W) then see if you can answer this Challenge Question:

Challenge Question # 6
"What directions are the whales sighted in the Santa Barbara Channel going?
Why aren't they going north?"

(To respond to this Challenge Question please follow the instructions at the end of this report.)

News "Flies In" from Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

March 25, 1998

Greetings Journey North!
"Last Wednesday March 11, I had an opportunity to fly in our Sanctuary airplane to collect data on boat traffic and marine mammals in the Sanctuary. We did a four hour flight (one shoreline survey route around Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel islands and another survey at the Sanctuary boundary 6 nautical miles offshore)."

"It was very exciting to see whales and dolphins from the air and challenging to identify them (I am used to seeing them from a boat at closer range). Flying is a great way to see the big picture of what is happening in the Sanctuary. You can cover so much more territory than is possible on a boat.

"We saw 58 gray whales (see specific sightings information below). We also saw 300 northern right whale dolphins, 3,500 common dolphins, 200 Risso's Dolphins and 50 Pacific White Sided dolphins. We had perfect weather and more than 50 miles of visibility. The islands were a brilliant green from the recent rains. What a day!"

Here's Laura's chart with compass bearings:





33.963 N

119.742 W


3 whales heading 230

33.955 N

119.794 W


1 whale heading 240

34.010 N

119.905 W


21 whales heading 320

34.039 N

119.990 W


5 whales heading 300

34.015 N

120.325 W


3 whales meandering

34.018 N

120.415 W


7 whales socialization (mating?)

34.040 N

120.459 W


2 whales heading 280

34.077 N

120.378 W


1 whale heading 050

33.897 N

120.090 W


3 whales heading 200

34.029 N

119.492 W


3 whales heading 300

34.114 N

120.032 W


1 whale heading 330

34.137 N

120.461 W


3 whales heading 330

33.906 N

119.664 W


5 whales heading 270

That's All for now!
Laura Gorodezky
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

All Aboard! A Whale Watching Field Guide
Imagine you're on board a whale watching vessel. Would you know what to look for in your search for whales? Etai Timna, a volunteer at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, has provided tips for a successful whale-watching expedition.

Field Notes From Kodiak, Alaska

To: Journey North
From: Susan Payne

National Marine Fisheries Service

March 25
"We are busy planning for our Whale Fest Kodiak. Inspired by the 1997 Whale Fest, Barb Anthony's students class created this gray whale mural at Main elementary school in Kodiak.

Whale Fest will include lectures by marine mammal specialists, art shows of whale inspired art by adults and children, kite flying and bubbles, movies, radio and television programs and Whale Alerts. See the mural inspired by last year's Whale Fest in today's report on the WWW. Our first speaker next Monday, March 30 will be Lauri Jemison of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game speaking on her harbor seal research at Tugidak island south of the Kodiak archipelago."

"Here in Kodiak Monday, March 23 we had our first Whale Alert on the radio, but they did not specify whether they were gray whales. Last year our first reports of gray whales started the week of March 18, so we should be hearing of their arrival."

"This last week Monterey Bay Whale Watch in Monterey, California reports seeing 15-20 gray whales on their 3 hour trips. This number is down slightly from Nancy Black's last report to me on March 15 where they were seeing 20-25 gray whales per trip. Their sightings are from the same general area, 2-7 miles west of Point Pinos off Monterey at Latitude 36.585N, Longitude 122.089 W. Nancy heard that a group of 20 Killer whales was seen March 13 harassing two gray whales near Pt. Lobos."

"On Saturday, March 21, Christina Folger, the marine education specialist with Marine Discovery Tours in Newport, Oregon saw a very exciting and unusual event according to the gray whale literature. Seven miles offshore,straight out from Newport (Latitude 44.833 N, Longitude 124.333 W) they watched 5-6 gray whales together with 30-40 California sealions feeding on small baitfish (the surface of the water was rippling with these fish). All around them were other whales breeching and rolling over. The weather was very fine that day; calm with 4 foot swells. From March 15-21, they have been seeing 3-10 whales in a two hour period and on Saturday, March 22, they saw 3 whales in an hour and a half. This they consider good whale watching!"

"Christina also reports that on March 17 she saw a cow and calf nursing approximately 1 mile offshore and north of the Newport's North Jetty (44.700N, 124.083W). They watched the pair nurse for about 45 minutes. Three other whales were within a mile of this pair and during this time one whale approached their boat. Christina thinks the peak of the migration went by Newport the week of March 15-22. We will see what happens between now and the next report!"

"Last report I spoke of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department's program "Whale Watching Spoken Here". This is a volunteer whalewatching program sighting the northward gray whale migration from 29 locations along the Oregon coast to Ilwaco, Washington during spring vacation from March 21-28. I imagine Mike Rivers, the coordinator, is quite busy now so we can access their Spring 1998 Whale Watch Update on the Web.

"Heading up the coast to Westport and Grays Harbor, Washington, we are seeing a definite increase in whales in the last two weeks from March 13- 22. Geoff Grillo of Advantage Sport Fishing took out some people Sunday, March 22 just off the mouth of Grays Harbor (Latitude 46.933 N, Longitude 124.833 W). They saw 10 gray whales in two and a half hours in water 9-10 fathoms (a fathom equals 6 feet). Geoff is a crab fisherman also and in the last two weeks on several trips of 35 miles heading north from Grays Harbor, going a speed of 20 knots, he saw 20-30 whales each trip. The whales were along the beach out to 12 miles (or as Geoff likes to report from shore out to 28 fathoms)."

"All along the coast we are seeing an increase in the number of whales. Jamie's Whaling Station in Tofino, British Columbia reports that if the weather is good they are seeing 6-10 whales in 2 hour trips. Dave Christensen saw 10-12 whales in 2 hours a mile and a half offshore on Thursday, March 19 (approx. Latitude 49.083 N, Longitude 125.916 W). Brian Congdon of Subtidal Adventures in Ucluelet, British Columbia reports seeing 3-4 gray whales feeding in an area where herring have spawned (they may be feeding on the herring spawn on kelp). This is near Forbes Island on the western shore of Barkley Sound (Latitude 48.950 N, Longitude 125.416 W). Brian says they have noticed that the migrating whales tend to be further offshore this year; they are seeing them 1-4 miles offshore from Ucluelet (48.916 N, 125.500 W)."

"We should be hearing from Kenai Fjords Tours in Seward, Alaska any day now with some gray whale reports from Alaska. In the meantime, see if you can answer this Challenge Question:"

Challenge Question # 7
"How many gallons of milk do you suppose a gray whale calf drinks each day?
How much weight does a newborn Gray Whale calf gain each day?"

(To respond to this Challenge Question please follow the instructions at the end of this report.)

Signs of Spring in Kodiak

"All of a sudden the signs of spring are everywhere. In the last two weeks we have seen the movement of the Black oystercatcher into their nesting areas and actual pairing off of the birds. Yesterday, I saw the eagles doing their courtship acrobatics. Mallards, in pairs, are back in the small ponds and puddles. The sounds of Spring are really exciting. We are hearing the Varied Thrush song, a sharp, clear twill and even the low distinctive sound of the snipe. The elderberry bushes in our yard are about to bud out. I must tell you that the signs of spring that I will report will be the wild signs of spring as our family lives out of town rather remote on an island. My tulips have not come up even though I see the tulip plants up around town. It is generally colder on our side of the island (I cross a mountain pass to get home)."

"The outmigration of salmon fry is another sign of spring very important here on Kodiak because of our salmon fishery. From the Kitoi Bay Hatchery (Latitude 58.190 N Longitude 152.356 W), the pink salmon fry started outmigrating on March 16 and the Chum salmon on March 11. By March 18, 5 million chum fry and 1.2 million pink salmon fry had outmigrated. The outmigrations for both species were ahead of Andy Hall's, hatchery manager, projections. He thinks that last summer's warmer water temperatures sped up the development of the eggs and thus the earlier outmigration. Sunrise on March 25 is at 0658 and sunset is at 1933, 12 hours and 35 minutes of daylight.

Challenge Question # 8
"What day do you think the photoperiod in Kodiak reach 13 hours?"

(To respond to this Challenge Question please follow the instructions at the end of this report.)

Please Help Track Gray Whale Migration

Report the FIRST northbound Gray Whale you see this spring to Journey North!

If you live along the Gray Whale migration route on the West Coast, we hope you'll help provide gray whale migration data this spring. To track the whales' trip to their northern feeding grounds we are collecting the following information:

1) Date of first sighting of northbound gray whales.
2) Date of first sighting of northbound gray whale mother/calf pairs.

Obviously, you would need to watch for whales every day to accurately report these "firsts" of the season. Therefore, we encourage you to contact the captain of one of the many whale-watch vessels in your area. These people are lucky enough to be out every day and can provide accurate data for you.

How to Respond to Journey North Gray Whale Challenge Questions:

Please answer ONLY ONE question in each e-mail message:

1. Address an e-mail message to:
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question # 6 ( OR #7 OR #8)
3. In the body of the message, give your answer to the questions above.

The Next Gray Whale Migration Update Will be Posted on April 8, 1998.

Copyright 1998 Journey North. All Rights Reserved.