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Whale watching week! Print E-mail
Written by The Curry Coastal Pilot   
March 21, 2014 07:30 pm

 

The Oregon Coast is the place to be today through March 29 as gray whales cruise north on their annual spring migration. So grab some binoculars and turn them seaward.

The Oregon Coast is the place to be today through March 29 as gray whales cruise north on their annual spring migration. So grab some binoculars and turn them seaward.

Gray whale numbers usually peak about the last week in March —  just in time for the Spring Whale Watch Week. 

Nearly 160 gray whales pass along the coast each day and whale watchers may see their 12-foot blow — or spout — from the shore. 

Trained volunteers will be at 24 “Whale Watching Spoken Here” sites along the coast from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day. 

Volunteers will answer questions and share tips about spotting some of the 18,000 gray whales heading from their breeding grounds on Mexico’s Baja coast to their summer feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi Seas. 

Locally, whales can be seen — and volunteers will be on hand to answer questions — at Battle Point Wayfinding Point in Port Orford, Cape Ferrelo and Harris Beach in the Brookings area, and at Brother Jonathan Point in Crescent City.

Visitors hoping to spot some of these passing giants should come to the coast with binoculars and rain gear and look for the “Whale Watching Spoken Here” signs at the whale watching viewpoints.

 This time of year most of the whales can be spotted about 1 to 3 miles off the coastline. Occasionally, whales will search for food or an early mother and calf will swim close to the shore. 

Maps of the “Whale Watching Spoken Here” viewpoints are online at www.whalespoken.org. 

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department coordinates the whale watch weeks with support from the Hatfield Marine Science Center.

Whale Watching tips

•Gray whales usually surface every 45 seconds as they swim, but will often stay under for 3 to 5 minutes when they are eating. If they have been down for 5 minutes they usually blow five times when they surface to replenish their oxygen supply. If they are frightened they can stay down for 30 minutes, hiding on the bottom or traveling great distances.

•The ultimate in whale sightings is a breach — when a whale launches as much as three-quarters of its body out of the water in a spectacular show of power and grace. Scientists aren’t sure why whales breach.

•A deep dive, also known as sounding or fluking, happens when a whale lifts its tail flukes out of the water. This helps propel the whale downward at a steep angle to the bottom, where they feed. After the flukes disappear under the water, the turbulence of the dive will cause a circle of smooth water, known as a fluke-print.

•Gray whales can often seen “spyhopping,” or lifting their heads above the surface of the water to get a better sense of their surroundings.

•Morning light (with the sun at your back) is often helpful for spotting blows. Afternoon light reflects off the water and makes viewing difficult.

•Calmer days are better whale watching days as the waves aren’t as turbulent.

•Higher locations often yield more sightings than beaches.

 

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