Whale Watch Week attracts enthusiasts

Pictures of baleen, how large gray whales are compared to humans and the fun fact that Orcas or killer whales are the only natural predators of gray whales, is some of the information that Whale Watching Spoken Here volunteer Annette Smith shared with visitors Friday at Harris Beach State Park.

This past week was Winter Whale Watch Week along the Wild Rivers Coast, and Harris Beach was one of the 24 viewpoints.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day, trained volunteers were stationed at the viewpoints along the Oregon Coast ready to share their knowledge about gray whales with visitors and help watchers spot the whales.

"The main thing we do is try and make sure our volunteers are there no matter what the weather is," Smith said.

As of 12:45 p.m. Friday, the volunteers at Harris Beach had only sighted one whale.

Smith said the high wind gusts and wave swells made for poor sightings.

"The swells of the ocean make a difference," Smith said. "The calmer the ocean is, the better you'll be able to see (the whales') spout.

"Clouds don't matter. Swells and wind are the biggest factor(s)."

Nevertheless, nearly 100 people ventured out to Harris Beach in hopes of spotting a whale.

Maxine Steele, of the Puget Sound area of Washington state, is one of those people.

Steele and her husband started driving down the coast on their way to Arizona last year in an attempt to see a few whales.

It took until Crescent City before they saw one, but they enjoyed the trip so much that they decided to embark on it again.

"When you see them it's unbelievable," Steele said.

Throughout the four to six-week migration period, nearly 20,000 whales will travel south to Mexico, Smith said.

They migrate to warmer waters so that the babies don't freeze to death when they're born.

The baby whales aren't born with blubber to survive the Arctic temperatures.

After feeding in Mexico for a couple of months, the whales will migrate north in March. Roundtrip, it's a 10,000 mile journey, Smith said.

The whale watch week is coordinated by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) and is part of its Whale Watching Spoken Here program.

For more information about the program and for a map with all 24 viewpoints, please visit www.whalespoken.org.

Whales can be spotted all year long, but more so during migration periods.

The Spring Whale Watch Week is set for March 24-31.

The Curry Coastal Pilot
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