Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gray Whales (Eschrichtius robustus)

The gray whale is the most common large whale seen from shore along the west coast of North America. Gray whales are found off the Oregon coast all year. They feed in shallow water near shore during the summer and fall, migrate south for breeding and calving during the winter, and migrate north in the spring. The gray whale gets its name from its blotchy color pattern. Some of this pattern is present at birth, but most of it is caused by barnacles growing in the skin or by depigmented areas where barnacles have been.

Gray whales reach 45 feet in length and weigh 35 tons. For comparison, a cross-country bus is 40 feet long. Adult females on average are larger than males. Whales are mammals. They are warm blooded, breathe air, have hair (single hairs around the front of the head that are visible on calves), and give birth to live young that suckle on milk from their mothers. Mid spring to mid fall is the gray whales feeding season. Most of the population spends this time in the Bering and Chukehi Seas off Alaska, although every summer some whales are observed feeding from British Columbia to Mexico. The summer population off the Oregon coast is about 200 to 400 animals, with many of the same individuals returning year after year. Summer feeding is better at higher latitudes because the long days produce lots of phytoplankton (small marine plants), which are eaten by zooplankton (small marine animals).

These are the basic food for all ocean life, stimulating the growth of the marine food web, including bottom-dwelling amphipods, the primary prey of gray whales. There are two basic types of whales: toothed and baleen. The gray whale is a baleen whale. Instead of true teeth, a row of 138-180 baleen plates grows along each side of the upper gum line. The baleen is made of material like a human fingernail. These are quite stiff and solid at its outer edge, each piece of baleen is “fringed” inside the mouth and tapers from 3 inches wide at the gum line to nearly a point at its bottom. These plates are separated by approximately ¼ inch inside the mouth, where their fringes overlap to form an effective screen.

Gray whales feed primarily on benthic (bottom-dwelling) amphipods (shrimp like animals). They go to the seafloor and suck up an area of the bottom about the size of a desktop and a foot deep. Sometimes this makes conspicuous pits on the bottom. The amphipods are trapped on the baleen filter inside the mouth, while mud, sand, and water pass between the baleen plates. This is the way the whale washes the amphipods clear of sand and mud. It then uses its tongue to suck the amphipods off the inside of the baleen fringe. Since gray whales filter animals from mud and water, their baleen is stiffer and has coarser fringes than that of other baleen whales.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Harbor Seals and Sea Lions

Harbor Seals
Harbor seals are the most commonly seen seals along Oregon’s coast. Their population is increasing because of federal law protection along the U.S. coast.

Size: Average five feet in length; adult males weigh around 200 pounds and females 170 pounds.

Description: Most are bluish-gray with black spots and irregular white rings and loops.
Habitat: Temperate, ice-free coastal waters of the North Pacific and North Atlantic oceans; found from Alaska south to Baja, California in eastern Pacific.

Behavior: Spend equal amounts of time on land and sea, are graceful swimmers, but movement on land is clumsy. Seldom venture far from water; often seen resting on bay and estuary sandbars at low tide. Move in wriggling manner on land, pulling their bodies along with their short fore limbs. Haul-out areas on protected tidal rocks and reefs along outer coast are hubs of daily activity and annual cycles, providing for resting, reproductive activities, births, caring for the young, and the annual molt. Can dive to 600 feet and remain underwater for 12-15 minutes. Make little noise. Considered non-migratory.

Diet: Herring, smelt, flatfishes, lampreys, sculpins, squid and octopus.
Lifespan: Up to 20 years.

California Sea Lions
The California sea lion has thick fur plus a dense layer of under-hairs that stay dry when the animal is underwater and a thick layer of blubber to help maintain its body temperature.

Size: Males weigh an average of 800 pounds and are seven to eight feet long. Females weigh much less, around 200 pounds and measure an average of five feet in length.

Discription: Mature males have dark red or chocolate brown fur that may appear black when wet. Females retain a light brown fur coloring. Males develop sagital crests, bony bumps on the top of their skulls that turn lighter as they age. A long snout gives the California sea lion an almost dog-like face.

Habitat: Bays, estuaries and waters near shore, from southern Mexico to southwestern Canada. Most of population migrates to southern California and Baja peninsula during breeding season. Females are joined by males during the breeding season, May-August.

Behavior: Males migrate to winter feeding areas off Oregon, Washington and Canada, sometimes taking over docks, piers and marinas. Seldom travel more than 10 miles offshore. Usually haul out on beaches or rocky shorelines in closely packed groups. Walk on land with rear flippers tucked under them. Sometimes seen floating together on the ocean surface, with flippers in air, in an action called “rafting”. Very vocal, make barking sounds.

Diet: Squid, Octopus, schooling fish, rockfish, salmon.
Lifespan: 17-18 years, predators are orcas and great white sharks.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

White-Sided Dolphin and Porpoise

Pacific White-sided Dolphin
The Pacific white-sided dolphin is common in offshore waters along the Pacific Northwest. They have a distinctive pattern of white, gray and black. The two most distinguishing features are the rather blunt beak and the rear-pointing dorsal fin, which is dark on the leading edge and pale gray on the trailing edge. They do not make a distinct blow, but often splash about producing sprays that resemble a blow. They are commonly seen in groups of 10-50 leaping acrobatically, surfing ocean waves, bow riding and “porpoising” in unison. Pacific white-sided dolphins feed on a variety of small fishes and squid, consuming about 20 pounds of food per day. Calving and mating occur from late spring to fall with gestation estimated at nine to 12 months. Adults are about seven feet long and weigh about 200 pounds.

Harbor Porpoise
The Harbor porpoise is very common in coastal waters of less than 600 feet. They are very shy, seldom showing much of themselves above water and almost never performing acrobatics like the dolphins. The best way to identify them is by their small gray body, shy behavior and the rather distinctive sound they make when they breathe. When a harbor porpoise breaks the surface, it makes a quick sneezing sound. They usually live in small groups of two to five individuals. Harbor porpoises feed in mid-water or near the bottom on small fish such as anchovies and herring. Mating usually occurs in early summer with gestation taking 11 months. Adults are about five feet long and weigh about 130 pounds.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Orca Whales / Killer of Whales

• An Odontoceti (toothed) mammal also known as the killer whale.
• Is largest member of the dolphin family, but mistakenly called one of the great whales because of its size.
• Found in all oceans of the world in “transient,” “resident,” and “offshore” family groups called pods.
• “Resident” pods have smaller home range and feed predominantly on fish.
• “Offshore” pods are smaller and seldom seen; little is known about them.
• “Transient” pods tend to travel over wider area and are occasionally seen off the Oregon coast, feed primarily on marine mammals, including juvenile Gray whales.
• Live in a matriarchal society, offspring living and traveling with mothers, sometimes after becoming fully grown.
• Individual pods often work together as teams to catch meals.
• Have well developed senses of hearing and vision, use echolocation, emitting high pitched clicks, bouncing sound off objects to locate prey, communicate with each other using clicks and whistles.
• Have a single blowhole near the top of the head, blow is a single, low bushy cloud.
• Teeth are large, enamel, conical shaped, and grow in both the upper and lower jaws.
• Upper body is mostly black with individually distinctive white patches behind eye and dorsal fin, underside is white (white patches and dorsal fin allow identification of individual whales); have a tall dorsal fin, measuring up to six feet in males and three feet in females.
• Mature males may grow to 28-30 feet and the female up to 26 feet.
• Males mature at about 12-16 years old, females at 6-10 years. Gestation is believed to last 15 to 18 months.
• Males live to 50-60 years, longer-lived females may live 80-90 years.
• Have no natural predators, whalers continue to hunt them, but not in large numbers.
• Susceptible to disease and interference of reproduction caused by pollution and chemical contamination. (San Juan residents listed as endangered because of high deaths attributed to pollution.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Conservation and Status of the Gray Whale

Three distinct populations of Gray Whales once existed. The north Atlantic population is now extinct, and the western Pacific population along the Russian and Asian coast may be depleted beyond recovery. The eastern Pacific population along the Canadian, U.S. and Mexican coastline was hunted to the brink of extinction in the 1850s after the discovery of the calving lagoons and again in the early 1900s when floating factories were introduced. Observers estimated that only a few thousand remained in 1900.

In 1947, the International Whaling Commission granted Gray Whales full protection, allowing only aboriginal peoples to hunt them for subsistence. Fifty years later, the eastern north Pacific Gray whale population appeared to have recovered, leading to the whale’s removal from the U.S. Endangered Species list in 1994. Some reports show the number reaching a pre-exploitation level of 26,000 in 1998. Since then, the number has declined to approximately 18,000. No one knows for sure, but some scientists believe the Gray Whale’s environment can only sustain this number. Despite its removal from the endangered list, the Gray Whale continues to be threatened by:

• Whaling by aboriginal people in Russia (180 taken annually)
• Deaths resulting from entanglement in fishing gear and boat strikes
• Loss of breeding grounds and food supplies
• Pollution, chemicals and garbage, especially plastics dumped in the ocean
• Commercial activity such as offshore drilling
• Predator attacks. (Orcas are the only natural predators of Gray Whales.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gray Whale (Behavior)

A small percentage of Gray whales feed off the Oregon coast in the summer. Their primary food source is mysid shrimp, which swarm in abundance near the bottom of the kelp beds. During this shallow water feeding behavior, watchers can often see one half of the tail fluke above water while the whale is head down in a kelp bed. The half fluke looks very much like a shark fin.

Records from the whaling industry indicate that this species usually does not feed during its migration or winter calving periods. They can lose up to 30 percent of their body weight between feeding seasons. Whales have been observed coming to the surface with mud streaming from their baleen in the calving areas and along the migration route. Such behavior may indicate attempts at feeding or training the calves to feed.

Gray whales are noted for their protective behavior toward their calves. They were called “devil fish” by early Yankee whalers who had their ships rammed and sometimes sunk after the whalers harpooned a calf to entice the mother closer. Now they are considered the “friendliest” of whales, often curiously approaching anglers and whale watching boats.

When a Gray whale comes to the surface, its blow or spout is a double-plumed, misty jet of vapor, rising 6 to 12 feet, that can often be seen against the horizon. The blow is not a fountain of water, but a mist of condensed warm moist air exhaled under high pressure from the lungs. The whale can expel 400 liters of air in a single blast.

Generally, gray whales are slow swimmers, averaging three to five mph during migration. They have a rhythmic breathing pattern. Normally they will make three to five short, shallow dives of less than a minute each and then a long, deep dive. A general rule is one short dive and a blow for every minute spent in a deep dive. This repeated breathing pattern enables the whales to store up oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide built up during a long dive. In a single breath, 80 to 90 percent of the air in their lungs is exchanged compared to 10 to 20 percent in land mammals.

Feeding dives may range from 3 minutes up to 15 minutes. They can stay under water for 30 minutes if they need to. If they are frightened, they can hide on the bottom or travel great distances underwater. Sometimes they dive and reappear a quarter of a mile away.

Whales have the largest brain of any animal on earth. They are curious and often seen “spyhopping”, or lifting their heads above the surface of the water. They like to rise up and get a better look at their surroundings.

When a Gray whale lifts its tail flukes out of the water, it is going into a deep dive. This action, called sounding or fluking, helps propel the whale downward at a steep angle to the bottom where they feed on small crustaceans. After the flukes disappear under the water, the turbulence of the dive will cause a circle of smooth water, known as a fluke-print.

The ultimate in whale sightings is a breach, which occurs when a whale launches as much as ¾ of its body out of the water in a spectacular show of power and grace. Scientists are not sure why whales breach. They speculate that they do it to remove parasites, communicate with each other, or just do it for fun. Gray whales are not known for breaching nearly as often as their cousins, the humpback. Young Gray whales seen along the Oregon coast seem to breach the most frequently.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

New Sweatshirts 2010

Next year 2010 we will be selling sweatshirts, this is how the back of the sweatshirt will look. There is also our logo on the front that says:

Whales Tail
Dockside Charters
Depoe Bay, Oregon

Colors: Gray, Forest Green Hooded, Moroon, Yellow, Black, and Navy Blue
Sizes: 3X, 2X, XL, Lg, and Med.
Price: $25.00

Cool Looking, see Gary or Kit

Here are some other ideas we are looking into:
1. Hydrophone
2. Taking videos of your trip
3. Webcam

We look forward to seeing you aboard the "Whales Tail"

Dockside Charters
270 Coast Guard Pl.
Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341
(541) 765-2545 or Toll Free (800) 733-8915

Gray Whales Reproduction

Gray whales reach sexual maturity between 5 and 11 years of age (average eight years), or when they reach 36-39 feet in length. Breeding can occur from December to April. Although sometimes seen on the southward migration, most mating behavior is observed in Baja and on the northward migration. Females are frequently seen in the company of two males (termed a “courting triad”). Females trying to avoid copulation frequently roll onto their backs with their flippers extended to avoid male advances. Females must roll to an upright position periodically to breathe, however, at which times males attempt copulation.

Gray whales are solitary in nature. They come together during the mating season but do not form family units. Calves stay with their mother until they are weaned, usually by October. A single calf is born in late December to early February after a gestation period of about 12 months. Most females bear a calf once every two years. A newborn calf is about 15 feet long and weighs about one ton. Calves are nursed for six to eight months on fat rich (53 percent) milk and grow very rapidly during this time. The
mother and calf will stay in the Baja area for up to two months while the calf builds up stamina and a layer of blubber for insulation during migration.

Feeding habits
Gray whales have 130-180 baleen plates (up to 18 inches long) growing down from each side of their upper jaw. Composed of material resembling a human fingernail, the baleen plates are three inches wide at the top and taper to a point. Gray whales have the stiffest of all baleen and are the only whales known to feed extensively on bottom dwelling animals. While in the Bering and Chuckchi Seas, Gray whales feed on amphipods (shrimp-like creatures), as well as mysid shrimp, mollusks, tubeworms and hydroids. The main food source is amphipods (about the size of an M&M) that live in the top ¾ inches of the bottom sediment.

Some whales have been observed with fewer barnacles and more abrasions on one side of the head, indicating that they use one side more frequently while skimming the bottom. To feed, the whale turns on its side (usually right side), dives to the bottom and sucks up mud and sediment in a pulsing fashion, leaving head- sized depressions (about the size of a desktop) in the mud. As it closes its mouth, it expels water and sediment through the baleen plates, trapping the food on the inside before licking it off with their huge tongue and swallowing it.

Researchers have calculated that Gray whales need to consume seven percent of their body weight (about 2,600 pounds) per day. Concentrations of 12,000 to 20,000 amphipods per square yard have been found in the southern Chuckchi and northern Bering Seas where the majority of the whales feed during the sunimet One Gray whale eats about 396,000 pounds of amphipods in the approximately five months while feeding in northern waters.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Gray Whales Dec.11, 2009

Distribution and Migration
The Gray Whale is the most common large whale seen from the western shores of North America. The Gray Whales that migrate along our coast are the eastern north Pacific population. This group migrates south to Baja California in the fall and north to the Bering and Chuckchi Seas in the spring. During these migrations, about 80 percent can be seen within five miles of shore. Approximately 200 feed in shallow waters close to shore from northern California to British Columbia during the summer and early fall.
Gray Whales have one of the longest known migrations of any mammal, up to 6,000 miles in each direction. Their near-shore migration has led to speculation that these animals may not be good navigators. They tend to travel farther from shore during and after stormy weather with high surf. Scientists hypothesize that they may navigate by the sound of the pounding surf, keeping it on their left side while migrating south and on their right while migrating north. When the surf is pounding, they may be able to hear the sounds much farther from shore.

Migration south
After feeding during the summer and fall in the Bering and Chuckchi Seas, the entire Gray whale population migrates south to the calving and breeding lagoons of Baja, California. This southward migration begins in late October, passing by the Oregon coast from December through January. The pregnant females are the first to migrate, followed by the adult breeding males and females, and lastly the juveniles. This southern migration usually peaks off the Oregon coast from late December through early January, with up to 30 whales passing per hour. By mid-February, most of the whales have left Oregon waters. On their southern route, Gray Whales travel continuously at speeds up to five mph and are generally seen farther from shore than during their spring migration.

Migration north
Spread out over a longer period with two separate peaks, the northward migration begins from Baja in late February and continues through May. The number of adults and juveniles passing the Oregon coast peaks in March and April, mother/calf pairs peak in May. The whales tend to travel at a slower rate of speed northward (approximately three mph) and come closer to shore, especially mothers with calves. Sometimes adults and calves perform spectacular breaches to the delight of lucky whale watchers

The Whales Tail is a 26' Zodiac style inflatable boat that carries up to 6 people. It was designed specifically for Dockside Charters to give passengers the utmost in sightseeing and whale watching experiences. The Whales Tail is owned and operated by Captains Gary and Kit.

Join us on an exciting and exhilarating whale watching excursion. The Whales Tail offers a unique vantage point that puts you "up close and personal" for observing Oregon's resident gray whales as they feed along the shores of Depoe Bay. Don't be surprised if you notice the whales watching you as intently as you watch them.

Gary or Kit will provide you with a once in a lifetime experience that is not to be missed. After a trip on the Whales Tail you'll be telling tales of all the whales and wonders you've seen on your adventure off Depoe Bay.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

About Gray Whales

Scientific name
Eschrichtius robustus (ess-SCHRICK-tee-yuss-roe-BUSS-tuss).
Named by J.E. Gray, means “Robustus” is Latin for “strong” or “robust.”

Gray whales, the most commonly seen whales along the Oregon coast, are the most primitive of the baleen whales. Their average life expectancy is 50 years, but researchers have discovered a pregnant female estimated at more than 80 years old.

• Size: As adults, females are generally 45 feet long and weigh 35 tons. Mature males measure up to 35 feet long and weigh from 17-30 tons.

• Coloring: Ranges from mottled gray to black, covered with lighter colored abrasions, blotches, scars, white barnacles and orange whale lice. Some of the lighter coloring is natural, with scarring from barnacles, orca attacks, or encounters with boat propellers causing the remainder. Barnacles covering large areas of their heads and backs can make them appear almost white. These natural color patterns, barnacles and scarring from various sources make it possible to identify individual whales.

• Head: About one-fifth the body length. Appears V-shaped when viewed from above. Upper jaw is narrow and slightly arched. Two to five deep, broad furrows are in the region of the throat, allowing the mouth cavity to expand when feeding.

• Blowholes: When exhaling, sends spout of condensed air, or “blow,” six to 12 feet in the air. When whale is coming toward you or moving away, spout from its two blowholes can appear as a “V,” or heart- shaped.

• Dorsal Hump: Instead of a dorsal fin, the Gray whale has a dorsal hump and a series of six to 12 small humps called “knuckles” along the dorsal ridge to its tail.

• Tail: Measures as much as 10 feet across from tip to tip and is deeply notched in the center.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Strandings of Marine Mammals

Strandings can be live or dead, a single animal or a group of related individuals. Causes can be anything from a calf separated from its mother in heavy weather to death from old age. Mortal contact with vessels, oil spills, and entanglement in fishing gear are common anthropogenic (human-caused) events which can lead to a stranding.

Responding to a Stranding
Safety is first. These are wild animals in a stressed condition. They do bite. Some can carry diseases which can be transmitted to pets and humans.
Reporting a stranding is the best way to help stranded animals. It also provides biologists valuable opportunities to study the animals and their environment.

1. Keep people and dogs away.
2. Observe and report to an official agency.
3. Identify, distinguish between a baleen whale and a toothed whale, seal or sea lion or otter. Estimate size, note color, and comment on the nature of vocalizations.
4. Is the animal dead or alive, lethargic, injured, bleeding, or entangled.
5. Be as precise as possible, making note of landmarks and beach accessibility.
6. Are tags on the mammal, on which flipper do they appear? What color are they? Can you safely read the tag numbers?

1. Move, Touch, or Disturb the animal.
2. Try to drive animals back into the water.
3. Pour water on a seal, sea lion, or sea otter.
4. Try to feed any wild animal.

Marine mammals are protected by federal law. It is illegal for unauthorized persons to disturb, handle, or feed them. It is also illegal to collect or possess parts of marine mammals from dead strandings.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Barnacles and Whale Lice

Barnacles are a fact of life for gray whales. There are hundreds of pounds of barnacles on gray whales. These barnacles attach to themselves to gray whales in the lagoons when baby whales are born. Barnacles are on gray whales for as long as they are alive. Barnacles depigment the skin when they attach, when barnades die and fall off they leave a small round white circle or ring. Barnacle scars create a unique pattern on each whale, which can help in identification of the gray whale.

Gray whales also have whale lice which are not true parasites. They feed on the skin and damaged tissue actually helping the whales. Whale lice are orange colored patches around the barnacles and in crevices of the whales body such as creases and the mouth line. To get rid of the whale lice whales rub themselves along the sea bottom or breach. Gray whales feed on the bottom sediments such as amphipods and scrape off barnacles and whale lice as they feed. You can tell if a whale is right or left rostrumed by seeing which side has the barnacles scraped off. Most whales are right rostrumed.

It’s been a great year for us at Dockside but as the winter months approach the ocean conditions change and sometimes the ocean can get rough. Our daily updates for whale watching will be back in the spring. Whale watching for the winter migration will start in mid-December and will be running thru the New Year. I will keep you informed on the migration sightings and how the boat maintenance is going. We look forward to seeing you in 2010.

The Whales Tail has been pulled out of the water for boat and engine maintenance. We will have some new ideas and equipment for next year which we anticipate will make your whale watching better. Keep checking back for weekly updates.

Thank you for visiting our web site, we hope to see you aboard the Whales Tail.

Dockside Charters
270 Coast Guard Pl.
Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341
(541) 765-2545

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Gray Whales Northern Migration

In March whales are returning northward along the Oregon coast. The northbound migration begins with immature animals adult males, and females without calves. These animals pass the Oregon coast from early March through April. Breeding sometimes is observed at this time. Calves usually are rambunctious but stay close to their mothers as they become more coordinated and develop an insulating blubber layer. Calves are at least a month old before they migrate north with their mothers. Mothers and calves are the last to
leave the lagoons and move somewhat more slowly, passing Oregon from late April through June.

During the spring migration, if the weather is good, you can see whales within a few hundred yards of coastal headlands. The full round-trip migration from the Baja calving lagoons to the Bering Sea and back is 10,000 miles, the longest known for any mammal. Other whales also are known to migrate between summer high-latitude feeding grounds and more temperate low-latitude
breeding and calving areas. Researchers know more about the gray whale because it moves close to shore. This movement has led to speculation that gray whales navigate by staying in shallow water or keeping the surf noises to one side or the other, depending on their direction of travel.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Gray Whales Southern Migration

The Whales Tail is a 26' Zodiac style inflatable boat that carries up to 6 people. It was designed specifically for Dockside Charters to give passengers the utmost in sightseeing and whale watching experiences. The Whales Tail is owned and operated by Captains Gary and Kit.

Whale Bits

The Gray Whale Southern Migration

Pregnant females are the first to migrate, followed by mature adults of both sexes and then by juveniles. Whales travel at a rate of up to three to five miles per hour during the southbound migration. It takes them about three weeks to get to Mexico.

Gray whales eat very little while migrating and while in calving areas. Many whales may go without food for three to five months.

The animals travel south to the three major breeding and calving lagoons on the west coast of Baja California, Mexico: Laguna Ojo de Libre, adjacent to Laguna San Ignacio; Guerrero Negro Lagoon and Magdalena Bay.

270 Coast Guard Pl.
Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341
(541) 765-2545 or (800) 733-8915

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Whale Waching Zodiac Style

The "Whales Tail" is a 26' zodiac that carries up to 6 people. It was designed to give passengers a unique whale watching and sightseeing experience with a more personal touch. After a trip on the "Whales Tail" you'll be telling tales of all the whales and wonders you've seen on your adventure.

Trip Rates

1 hour $25.00
11/2 hour $35.00
2 hour $45.00

Daily Trip Times

8:00AM, 9:30AM, 11:00AM, 12:30PM, 2:00PM, 3:30PM, 5:00PM, 6:30PM

Dockside Charters Depoe Bay
270 Coast Guard Pl.
Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341

Phone (541) 765-2545 or Toll Free (800) 733-8915

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gray Whales Feeding Habits

Midspring to midfall is the gray whales feeding season. Most of the whales spend this time off Alaska, although every summer some whales are observed feeding from British Columbia to Mexico. The summer population off the Oregon coast is about 200 to 400, with many of the same whales returning year after year.

There are two basic types of whales, toothed and baleen. The gray whale is a baleen whale. Instead of teeth, they have a row of 130–180 baleen plates that grows along each side of the upper gum line. The baleen is made of material like a human fingernail. Appearing quite stiff and solid at its outer edge, each piece of baleen is fringed inside the mouth and tapers from 3 inches wide at the gum line to nearly a point at its bottom.

Gray whales feed primarily on amphipods, shrimp like animals. They go to the seafloor and suck up an area of the bottom. Sometimes this makes conspicuous holes on the bottom. The amphipods are trapped on the baleen filter inside the mouth, while mud, sand, and water pass between the baleen plates. This is the way the whale washes the amphipods clear of sand and mud. It then uses its tongue to suck the amphipods off the inside of the baleen fringe. Since gray whales filter animals from mud and water, their baleen is stiffer and has coarser fringes than that of other baleen whales.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Whale Watching Guidelines

A growing interest in the observation of whales brings people to the coast to whale watch. Whale watching is something you get better at with practice, but it does take some patience.

Once you have seen what you are looking for, looking for other sightings are much easier, and you will start to see more whales.

When and where
1. Be patience.

2. Observe from headlands with good elevation. When whales move along the shoreline, they usually will go around headlands very close to the shore.

3. Pick early morning hours. Conditions are usually better before winds cause windchop on the water's surface.

4. Choose weather that favors a calm ocean. Don't go during or just after a storm. Overcast days are good for whale watching because there is very little glare.

What to look for
1. Scan the horizon and look for the spouts, water, or spray blown into the air up to 12 feet when the whale exhales.

2. Once you locate a blow, keep looking for it. Where you see one blow, you will see others, either from other whales or the same whale. Getting the range to whales can sometimes be a problem, but once you establish it, you can focus your attention on this area.

3. Whales have periodic blow patterns during their migration. Usually an individual will make up to a 4-6 short, shallow dives before a more prolonged dive of up to 10 minutes, usually 3 to 5 minutes. Sometimes whales leave what I call a foot print on the water after short dives, so you can track their progress and watch for the next blow.

4. Usually, only a portion of the whale's head and back show during a blow. You can distinguish one whale from another by observing the position and shape of the dorsal fin, blow, head, back ridges, and tail. If the tail flukes are raised high, the dive will usually be a deep one. In shallow water, the whale may keep the flukes high for several minutes.

5. Spy Hopping is a term applied to a whale with its head partially out of the water in a vertical position, sometimes bringing the eye above the surface. Whales may do this both to see better and to listen.

6. Breaching is a term we use when a whale rises vertically out of the water, one-half to three-quarters of its length, and falls to its side or back-making a splash when it hits the water. The reasons for breaching are knocking off whale lice, communicating, courting, or just having fun. Often where one whale breaches, others will start to breach.

Identifying whales along the Oregon coast
1. Uneven gray color splotchy with barnacles in skin and ridges along the back just forward of the tail is a gray whale.

2. Long white flippers, with bumps on the top of the head, very strong angle of the back when diving, short dorsal fin is a humpback whale.

3. Tall dorsal fin, very crisp black and white color pattern, often seen in groups is a killer of whales or orca.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gray Whales, What do they Eat

Gray whales are opportunistic feeders, which means they will eat food from a wide range of sources. Along the coast of Depoe Bay, Oregon, it appears they feed on mysid shrimp found at the edge of kelp beds. Billions of mysids are found in the waters off Depoe Bay. In the Bering and Chukchi Seas in Alaska, they feed on bottom sediments packed with amphipods.

There have been studies that have shown that prey items included anphipods, crab larvae, krill, ghost shrimp, pelagic red crabs, skeleton shrimp, mysids, small fish, polychaete worms and other organisms.

How They Eat:
Gray whales are baleen whales and they are in the Mysticeti category which means moustache whale. In place of teeth on the upper jaw, the Mysticetes have a series of overlapping plates made of keratin its the same substance as your fingernails. The inner margin of each plate, next to the tongue, is fringed with bristles that trap organisms but still allows water to pass through.

Hanging from the top jaw of a gray whale are blonde colored baleen plates about one foot long. The inside edges of these plates have bristles which trap food organisms like mysid shrimp or crab larvae. Like all baleen whales, gray whales draw in food-laden sea water and push it through the baleen plates, filtering out food with the bristles.

Heres how it works:
The gray whale depresses its 2000 pound tongue. This forms a suction and a piston that brings in water and small food items. Once the food-laden water is inside the mouth, the tongue is lifted up and the mysids become trapped on the inside edges of the baleen plates and the water leaves through the openings of the baleen plates. The tongue licks these bristles clean and then the prey move through the grapefruit-sized throat. Two to five throat grooves also expand when the whales feed to increase the surface area. Baleen plates hang from the roof of the mouth and these one foot long baleen plates filter food like mysids from the water.

Where They Eat:
Resident gray whales are most commonly seen feeding in and around kelp beds in water depths of 10 feet. Huge swarms of mysids live in these kelp beds
during spring, summer and early fall. These huge swarms range from 3 to 20 feet thick and have billions of mysids. One gray whale is estimated to eat a ton of these mysids per day. One sign of grays feeding on these mysids is when a partial fluke is exposed at the surface.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Oregon Coast Gray Whales

Off the Oregon Coast we see gray whales every month of the year. There are approximately 18,000 gray whales in the winter and spring migrations and a group of 200-400 whales that feed along the Oregon and Washington coast during fall and summer. In the spring March through June most of these gray whales make the journey from their breeding lagoons in Baja California to Arctic feeding grounds. On this northbound migration, small numbers of gray whales fall out of the migration group and stop at various locations along the Oregon coast. These whales are called resident whales.

For whales to be known as residents, they must stay around a certain area for at least two days, exhibit feeding behavior, and return year after year.This distinguishes them from migrating whales which stop on their migration and feed then move on their way.

Along the central Oregon coast, resident gray whales begin showing up in May. On any one day throughout the summer, numbers range from one to 20. Some arrive in early summer, leave, and then return in late summer or early fall.

Resident gray whales remain around Newport or Depoe Bay for a period of days to months. Some residents don’t show up for a year or more, there is one whale “Scarback” who been around for at least 17 years.The last of the residents leave in October or November and return to the breeding lagoons of Baja California to rejoin the remainder of the population.

Friday, October 30, 2009

How's Your Whale Knowledge? Fact or Fiction

1. Gray whales travel in pods …………………………………………...........True /False

2. Water sprays out of a whale’s blowhole………………………………..True / False

3. We only see gray whales during Winter or Spring…………………True / False

4. We have resident gray whales in Oregon waters……………………True / False

5. The whale’s full name is “California Gray Whale”…………….......True / False

6. Gray whales eat fish…………………………………………….………………True / False

7. Orcas are whales………………………………………………………………… True / False

8. Killer whales eat whales…………………………………………….…………True / False

9. We don’t see Humpback whales along the Oregon coast………..True / False

1. False. Pod means family and gray whales are solitary animals. There are some times that you see them close together. During migration, 19,000 whales are passing by and sheer numbers will put them close together. During summer feeding, when the food is plentiful, they will feed in the same areas. And when feeling romantic, there may be multiple whales vying for a female’s attention.

2. False. Whale's lungs are connected to their nose (blowhole) but not their mouth. They cannot blow water out of their blow hole. Some whales start to exhale before they reach the surface, blowing through the water and causing a visible water spray. Gray whale's lungs are the size of two chest freezers, and they empty them in a fraction of a second, causing visible condensation (like our breath in the winter).

3. False. We actually see whales every month of the year along the Oregon coast. We have 19,000 gray whales during winter and spring migrations, plus a group of 200-400 whales that feed along the Oregon and Washington coasts during the summer and fall.

4. False. There is an urban legend of resident whales in Oregon waters, but all the whales along our coast migrate. The migration is to find warm calm waters for giving birth. Babies are born without the insulating blubber layer, and if born in our cold waters they will die from hypothermia.

5. False. The gray whale’s real name is “Eastern Pacific gray whale”. We don’t usually use the “Eastern”, and refer to them as Pacific gray whales. There is one other small group (130 whales) along the Russian coast.

6. False, usually. A gray whale’s throat is only the size of a grapefruit, obviously limiting what it can swallow. Their usual food is amphipods and are found in the mud on the sea floor, or mysid shrimp that are found in the water column in rocky areas. Both are no bigger than mosquitoes and they eat a ton a day. But they are opportunistic feeders and have been known to eat crab larve and small fish.

7. False. Orca’s common name of “killer whale” is really “killer of whales”. We got lazy and quit saying the “of’ and turned them into whales. Orcas were given their name because they kill whales. Orcas are technically the largest dolphins.

8. True. The transient orca’s (killer whale’s) favorite food is baby whales as the adults are too big for them. If they cannot get a baby whale, they will hunt sealions and seals. There is a different type of orca in the Puget Sound called residents and they are fish eaters.

9. False. There are about 1,100 humpback whales that migrate past Oregon with the grays at about the same time. There are also humpbacks that feed along the coast but their food is found 8 miles or more off shore. Occasionally currents will push their food close to shore and we will get to see them feeding. They are often seen by fishing boats, but not usually from shore location.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Wet Cat

Bobcat next to Ship

Friday, September 18, 2009

Oregon Coast Whale Watching (Whale's Tail)

Whale Watching Report for 18 Sept. 2009 Whale's Tail

It was a beautiful day on the ocean, and the whales put on a fantastic show this afternoon. I think the whale's enjoyed watching us just as we did them. Especially for a great couple from Arkansa and a nice lady from Salem, Oregon. Hope you all had a wonderful trip. There were 8-10 whale's observed from South Point to Whale's Cove and they were up close and personal. Thank you for visiting our web site, we hope to see you aboard the Whale's Tail.

Whale watching has been great this past week, with lots sightings of gray whales, For added adventure, nothing beats a trip aboard the "WHALE'S TAIL". Dockside had the first licensed Zodiac style boat taking Whale Watchers out on the entire Oregon Coast. Fun for the entire family. Go out with Gary or Kit for a great time. The Whale's Tail is available 7 days a week, starting in the mornings at 8:AM and runs all day and into the early evenings. We have 1hr and 1 1/2 hr and 2 hr trips. We would like to thank everybody who went out with us and hope to see you again.

The Whale's Tail is a 25' Zodiac style inflatable boat that carries up to 6 people. It was designed specifically for Dockside Charters to give passengers the utmost in sightseeing and whale watching experiences. The Whale's Tail is owned and operated by Captains Gary and Kit.

Join us on an exciting and exhilarating whale watching excursion. The Whale's Tail offers a unique vantage point that puts you "up close and personal" for observing Oregon's resident gray whales as they feed along the shores of Depoe Bay. Don't be surprised if you notice the whales watching you as intently as you watch them.

Gary or Kit will provide you with a once in a lifetime experience that is not to be missed. After a trip on the Whale's Tail you'll be telling tales of all the whales and wonders you've seen on your adventure off Depoe Bay.

We run daily trips all day starting at 8AM and will run till early evenings. We hope to see you soon.

Gary and Kit

Whale Bits

As a baleen whale, it has a series of 130-180 fringed overlapping plates hanging from each side of the upper jaw, where teeth might otherwise be located. These plates consist of a fingernail-like material called keratin that frays out into fine hairs on the ends inside the mouth next to the tongue. The plates are off-white and about 5-25 cm in length.
Dockside Charters
Depoe Bay, Oregon

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oregon Coast Whale Watching (Whales Tail)

Whale Watching Report For Sept. 17, 2009 (Whale's Tail)
It was a very enjoyable day on the ocean, and once again the whales put on a fantastic show. There were 6-8 Whales observed within 1/2 of each other. Tomorrow's weather should be good. Thank you for visiting our web site, we hope to see you aboard the Whale's Tail.

Whale Bits
Range and Habitat of Gray Whale's
Gray whales inhabit shallow coastal waters of the eastern and western North Pacific often sighted along the North American Pacific Coast between the arctic and the equatorial lagoons of Baja California, Mexico. Frequently visible from shore, gray whales provide opportunity for land and boat observation, and commercial whale watching has become a major industry along its migration route. The southward journey takes 2-3 months and the whales remain in the lagoons for 2-3 months allowing calves to build up thick layers of blubber for the northward migration. The return trip north takes another 2-3 months and mothers and calves travel very near shore on the northbound migration to avoid their main predators, orca whales.

Dockside Charters Depoe Bay
P.O. Box 1308
Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341
(541) 765-2545 or (800) 733-8915

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Depoe Bay Whale Watching (Whales Tail)

"Whales Tail" Dockside Charters, Whale Watching Report for September 8, 2009

The ocean conditions were very enjoyable today with light winds and seas. There were numerous whale sightings in the bay and north and south of Depoe Bay. Tomorrows weather looks fantastic with SW winds 10 knots, west swell 3 feet. Thank you for visiting our web site, we hope to see you aboard the Whales Tail.

Whale Bits
The Gray Whale is a dark slate-gray in color and covered by characteristic gray-white patterns, scars left by parasites which drop off in the cold feeding grounds. Individual whales are typically identified using photographs of their dorsal surface and matching the scars and patches associated with parasites that have fallen off the whale or are still attached.
Gray Whales measure from 16 ft long for newborns to 45 ft long for adult females (which tend to be slightly larger than adult males.) Newborns are a darker gray to black in color. On maturity, a gray whale can reach a maximum weight of 40 tons.

Whale watching has been great this past week, with lots sightings of gray whales, For added adventure, nothing beats a trip aboard the "WHALES TAIL". Dockside had the first licensed Zodiac style boat taking Whale Watchers out on the entire Oregon Coast. Fun for the entire family. Go out with Gary or Kit for a great time.The Whales Tail is available 7 days a week, starting in the mornings at 8:AM and runs all day and into the early evenings. We have 1hr and 1 1/2 hr and 2 hr trips. We would like to thank everybody who went out with us and hope to see you again.
Until tomorrow
Gary and Kit

PO Box 1308
Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341
(541) 765-2545 or (800) 733-8915

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Depoe Bay, Oregon (Whale Watching)

The Whale's Tail is a 25' Zodiac style inflatable boat that carries up to 6 people. It was designed specifically for Dockside charters to give passengers the utmost in sightseeing and whale watching experiences. The Whale's Tail is owned and operated by Captains Gary and Kit.
Join us on an exciting and exhilarating whale watching excursion. The Whale's Tail offers a unique vantage point that puts you "up close and personal" for observing Oregon's resident gray whales as they feed along the shores of Depoe Bay. Don't be surprised if you notice the whales watching you as intently as you watch them.
Gary or Kit will provide you with a once in a lifetime experience that is not to be missed. After a trip on the Whale's Tail you'll be telling tales of all the whales and wonders you've seen on your adventure off Depoe Bay.
We run daily trips all day starting at 8AM and will run till early evenings. We hope to see you soon.
Dockside Charters Depoe Bay
PO Box 1308
Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341
(541) 765-2545 or (800) 733-8915

Friday, August 28, 2009

Whale Watching

Click on our Whales Tale Link for updates

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Whale Watching Aboard the "Whales Tail" Aug.15, 2009

Today their was around 5-7 whales in the vicinity of Depoe Bay harbor and the folks got to get a look at them all, "Ice Cap" put on a great show. There were also several Humpback whales just offshore. There was a report of some gray whales 3-miles offshore.

Adult males are about 45 feet long. Adult females are slightly larger, and measure about 50 feet long. Both sexes weigh 30-40 tons. A 45-foot, 35-ton gray whale is about the same size as 10 large elephants. The largest gray whales have flukes, or tails, that may span 10 feet.

Go whale watching aboard the "Whales Tail"

Depoe BayPO Box 1308
Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341
(541) 765-2545 or (800) 733-8915

Friday, August 14, 2009

Whale Watching Aboard the "Whales Tail" Aug.14 2009

Whales watching is at it's peak, with great sightings of gray whales, always a great show. For added adventure, nothing beats a great trip aboard the "WHALES TAIL". Dockside had the first licensed Zodiac style boat taking Whale Watchers out on the entire Oregon Coast. Great fun for the family. Go out with Gary or Kit for a great time.

The Whales Tail is available 7 days a week, starting in the mornings at 8:AM and runs all day and into the early evenings. We will even do sunset cruises. We have 1hr and 1 1/2 hr and 2 hr trips. I would like thank everybody who went out with us and hope to see you again.

Today their were 6 gray whales off Depoe Bay, Oregon. Eagle Eye, Vinney and Ice Cap put on a great show for everyone. The weather looks to be good for tommorrow with light winds and seas.

Fun Facts:
What is a gray whale's skin like?

The skin has many scratches, scattered patches of white barnacles, and orange whale lice. A whale's skin feels like a peeled, hard-boiled egg. All the Adult grays may have scars and tooth-rake marks from encounters with Orcas. Light gray or white scars show where the whale barnacles have fallen off. Young whales develop barnacle patches soon after birth.

Depoe Bay PO Box 1308
Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341
(541) 765-2545 or (800) 733-8915

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Closer Look At Gray Whales

The most conspicuous identifying characteristics of gray whales are their size, distinctive mottled gray coloring, dorsal hump (no dorsal fin) and the knuckles along the back behind the dorsal hump.

Size: Gray whales range in size from 35 to 45 feet long, and weigh 30 to 40 tons­about the length of a school bus and the weight of ten elephants, mush larger than a diver. Females weigh more and are longer than the males. Gray whales are intermediate in size in comparison with other well-known whales. By comparison, blue whales are 80 to 100 feet long and orcas (killer whales) are 20-25 feet long.

Coloration: Gray whales are so called because of their mottled gray coloration. The natural pigmentation can range from almost black to almost white, and can include white spots that range from the size of a marble to a basketball.This mottled appearance is enhanced by barnacles, barnacle scars, and whale lice.

Rostrum (Head Region): The rostrum extends from the tip of the snout to the blowholes, a length of about six feet. The rostrum of adult gray whales is covered with barnacles and whale lice. Gray whales that feed on the bottom, rub off barnacles and leave barnacle scars. Young gray whales have a dimpled rostrum with one hair in each dimple.

Eyes: The eyes of the gray whale are brown in color and the size of an orange. Eyes are located at the end of the mouth line, seven or eight feet from the rostrum tip.

Blow: The gray whale blow is 6-10 feet high and is heart-shaped if seen from behind on a calm day. About 100 gallons of air is expelled from the blow at speeds that range from 150 and 200 miles per hour.

Dorsal Hump: Gray whales have no dorsal fin, instead they have a dorsal hump at the end of the back.

Knuckles: 6-12 bumps called knuckles are seen behind the gray whale's dorsal hump. In some whales they are very distinct and in others they are not.

Baleen Plates: 300 blonde baleen plates about one foot long hanq from the top jaw. Bristles on the inside edges of those plates trap food organisms.

Blowholes: Gray whales have two blowholes like all baleen whales.

Throat Grooves: Two to five throat grooves on the bottom of the throat expand when the whales are feeding.

Flippers: Behind the throat grooves are pointed, paddle-shaped flippers.

Tail Fluke: An adult's tail fluke is 9 feet wide. When the tail fluke goes under the ocean's surface it leaves a characteristic print called a "fluke print".

Flukeprint: A large circle of smooth water formed by tail fluke turbulence when a whale dives.

Go whale watching zodiac style aboard the "Whales Tail" small groups or just the family.

PO Box 1308
Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341
(541) 765-2545 or (800) 733-8915

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Zodiac Style Whale Watching

What a Great Day and Great Whale Watching
It was a beautiful day temperatures in the 80's with light winds and seas. The forecast and the sun brought the whale watchers out in groves and the whales were everywhere and easy to find. The forecast all the way through next weekend looks nice so come on down and get out of the heat and enjoy the Oregon Coast and the whales.

The Zodiac style boat continues to give folks a great trip, great for the family. "Eagle Eye" who has been off Depoe Bay, Oregon since 2004 has been seen the last 4 days. Eagle Eye has a very distinctive pattern on the left dorsal hump that resembles an eye.

"Eagle Eye" exhibits very friendly behavior by approaching the boat and rubbing up against it.

Lets go Whale Watching aboard the "Whales Tail"

Depoe Bay PO Box 1308
Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341
(541) 765-2545 or (800) 733-8915

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lighthouse Mystery

The Disappearance of Muriel Travennard
Murders and unusual deaths are an important part of the tales of the old US Lighthouse Service. Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, the light that guided sailors into the harbor at Newport, is the site for the strange tale of Muriel Travennard. The lighthouse was in commission for only three years and replaced by another structure some distance away. Muriel, born in the late 19th century, was left motherless when very young. Her father, a sea captain, often took his daughter on his coastwide voyages.

When Muriel reached her teens, the father did not think a life on a ship, exposed to some of the language and actions of the forecastle, was a proper environment for a young woman. At just about this time, Capt. Travennard signed on a new crew for a voyage to Coos Bay. Her father departed, telling his daughter the voyage should take only a few weeks. While Muriel enjoyed her new surroundings, the weeks stretched into months. The young woman began to fear that her father had met some terrible fate. One day, a group of youths, hoping to take Muriel's mind off her missing father, invited the girl to explore the abandoned Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. Muriel accepted the invitation. The lighthouse proved a shambles.

The young adults found a strange iron plate in the floor, which gave way to a compartment with a hole dug in its floor. This strange arrangement held the young people for a short period, but then they moved on to explore the rest of the light structure, leaving the iron door ajar. By late afternoon, everyone decided they had had enough of the lighthouse and decided to return home. In the lowering twilight, just as the group started away from the abandoned Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, Muriel stopped the exploring party and said that she had left a scarf inside. The young people waited until Muriel dashed inside the lighthouse to retrieve the forgotten item, it should have taken only a minute to do so. The group of teenagers waited and waited. As time passed, they began to become nervous and started shouting out Muriel’s name, with no response.

A few of the young people decided to go inside and find her. A quick search proved fruitless, but then two discoveries sent the youths running in terror from the abandoned lighthouse. At the bottom of the stairs leading up into the tower was a pool of blood and a trail of blood droplets that led to the iron door, which had mysteriously closed. The young adults tried the door without success. Now, thoroughly terrified, the teenagers ran home to report the terrible happenings. A later search could find no trace of Muriel Travennard. The iron door could not be opened. Even efforts with a strong crowbar could not budge the door. No trace of Muriel Travennard was ever found. A dark stain still "marks the spot where her blood was found." Reports still circulate that her ghost can be seen "peering out from a dark lantern room and walking the shadowy path behind the lighthouse."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Depoe Bay, Oregon (Gray Whales)

Whale watching off Depoe Bay has been great the last couple of days. Sightings have been right off the entrance. Our Zodiac the "Whales Tail" carries up to 6 people, it's one of the best highlights on the Oregon coast.
We run daily trips for ocean sightseeing and to see the whales. Give us a call to book your trip. This is the smallest navigable harbor in the world with lots of history.
Depoe BayPO Box 1308
Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341
(541) 765-2545 or (800) 733-8915
Also for more information on Celestial Navigation see my blog archive.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Humpback Whales

Found in oceans and seas around the world, humpback whales typically migrate up to 25,000 kilometres each year. Humpbacks feed only in summer, in polar waters, and migrate to tropical or sub-tropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter. During the winter, humpbacks fast and live off their fat reserves. The species' diet consists mostly of krill and small fish. Humpbacks have a diverse repertoire of feeding methods, including the bubble net feeding technique.
Like other large whales, the humpback was and is a target for the whaling industry. Due to over-hunting, its population fell by an estimated 90% before a whaling moratorium was introduced in 1966. Stocks of the species have since partially recovered; however, entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, and noise pollution also remain concerns. There are at least 80,000 humpback whales worldwide. Once hunted to the brink of extinction, humpbacks are now sought out by whale-watchers, particularly off parts of Australia and the United States.
Humpback whales are rorquals (family Balaenopteridae), a family that includes the blue whale, the fin whale, the Bryde's whale, the Sei whale and the Minke whale. The rorquals are believed to have diverged from the other families of the suborder Mysticeti as long ago as the middle Miocene. However, it is not known when the members of these families diverged from each other.
Humpback whales can easily be identified by their stocky bodies with obvious humps and black dorsal colouring. The head and lower jaw are covered with knobs called tubercles, which are actually hair follicles and are characteristic of the species. The tail flukes, which are lifted high in some dive sequences, have wavy trailing edges.There are four global populations, all being studied. North Pacific, Atlantic, and southern ocean humpbacks have distinct populations which make an annual migration. One population in the Indian Ocean does not migrate. The Indian Ocean has a northern coastline, while the Atlantic and Pacific oceans do not, thereby preventing the humpbacks from migrating to the pole.
The long black and white tail fin, which can be up to a third of body length, and the pectoral fins have unique patterns, which enable individual whales to be recognised. Several suggestions have been made to explain the evolution of the humpback's pectoral fins, which are proportionally the longest fins of any cetacean. The two most enduring hypotheses are the higher maneuverability afforded by long fins, or that the increased surface area is useful for temperature control when migrating between warm and cold climates.
A humpback whale tail has wavy rear edges. The tail of each humpback whale is visibly unique. Humpbacks have 270 to 400 darkly coloured baleen plates on each side of the mouth. The plates measure from a mere 18 inches (460 mm) in the front to approximately 3 feet (0.91 m) long in the back, behind the hinge. Ventral grooves run from the lower jaw to the umbilicus about halfway along the bottom of the whale. These grooves are less numerous (usually 16–20) and consequently more prominent than in other rorquals. The stubby dorsal fin is visible soon after the blow when the whale surfaces, but has disappeared by the time the flukes emerge. Humpbacks have a distinctive 3 m (10 ft) heart shaped to bushy blow, or exhalation of water through the blowholes. Early whalers also noted blows from humpback adults to be 10 - 20 feet (6.1 m) high. Whaling records show they understood each species has its own distinct shape and height of blows.
Newborn calves are roughly the length of their mother's head. A 50-foot (15 m) mother would have a 20-foot (6.1 m) newborn weighing in at 2 short tons (1.8 t). They are nursed by their mothers for approximately six months, then are sustained through a mixture of nursing and independent feeding for possibly six months more. Humpback milk is 50% fat and pink in color. Some calves have been observed alone after arrival in Alaskan waters. Females reach sexual maturity at the age of five with full adult size being achieved a little later. According to new research, males reach sexual maturity at approximately 7 years of age. Fully grown the males average 15–16 m (49–52 ft), the females being slightly larger at 16–17 m (52–56 ft), with a weight of 40,000 kg (or 44 tons); the largest recorded specimen was 19 m (62 ft) long and had pectoral fins measuring 6 m (20 ft) each. The largest humpback on record, according to whaling records, was killed in the Caribbean. She was 88 feet (27 m) long, weighing nearly 90 tons.Females have a hemispherical lobe about 15 centimetres (6 in) in diameter in their genital region. This allows males and females to be distinguished if the underside of the whale can be seen, even though the male's penis usually remains unseen in the genital slit. Male whales have distinctive scars on heads and bodies, some resulting from battles over females.
Females typically breed every two or three years. The gestation period is 11.5 months, yet some individuals can breed in two consecutive years. Humpback whales were thought to live 50–60 years, but new studies using the changes in amino acids behind eye lenses proved another baleen whale, the Bowhead, to be 211 years old. This was an animal taken by the Inuit off Alaska. More studies on ages are currently being done.
Humpbacks frequently breach, throwing two thirds or more of their bodies out of the water and splashing down on their backs. The humpback social structure is loose-knit. Usually, individuals live alone or in small transient groups that assemble and break up over the course of a few hours. Groups may stay together a little longer in summer in order to forage and feed cooperatively. Longer-term relationships between pairs or small groups, lasting months or even years, have been observed, but are rare. Recent studies extrapolate feeding bonds observed with many females in Alaskan waters over the last 10 years. It is possible some females may have these bonds for a lifetime. More studies need to be done on this. The range of the humpback overlaps considerably with many other whale and dolphin species, while it may be seen near other species (for instance, the Minke Whale), it rarely interacts socially with them. Humpback calves have been observed in Hawaiian waters playing with bottlenose dolphin calves.
Courtship rituals take place during the winter months, when the whales migrate toward the equator from their summer feeding grounds closer to the poles. Groups of two to twenty males typically gather around a single female and exhibit a variety of behaviours in order to establish dominance in what is known as a competitive group. The displays may last several hours, the group size may ebb and flow as unsuccessful males retreat and others arrive to try their luck. Techniques used include breaching, spy-hopping, lob-tailing, tail-slapping, flipper-slapping, charging and parrying. "Super pods" have been observed numbering more than 40 males, all vying for the same female.
Whale song is assumed to have an important role in mate selection, however, scientists remain unsure whether the song is used between males in order to establish identity and dominance, between a male and a female as a mating call, or a mixture of the two. All these vocal and physical techniques have also been observed while not in the presence of potential mates. This indicates that they are probably important as a more general communication tool. Recent studies showed singing males attract other males. Scientists are extrapolating possibilities the singing may be a way to keep the migrating populations connected. It has also been noted that the singing begins when the competition ends. Studies on this are ongoing.
The humpback has the most diverse repertoire of feeding methods of all baleen whales. Its most inventive technique is known as bubble net feeding: a group of whales blows bubbles while swimming in circles to create a ring of bubbles. The ring encircles the fish, which are confined in an ever-tighter area as the whales swim in a smaller and smaller circles. The whales then suddenly swim upward through the bubble net, mouths agape, swallowing thousands of fish in one gulp. This technique can involve a ring of bubbles up to 30 m (100 ft) in diameter and the cooperation of a dozen animals. Some of the whales take the task of blowing the bubbles through their blowholes, some dive deeper to drive fish toward the surface, and others herd fish into the net by vocalizing. Humpbacks have been observed bubblenet feeding alone as well.Humpback whales are preyed upon by Orcas. The result of these attacks is generally nothing more serious than some scarring of the skin, but it is likely that young calves are sometimes killed.
Both male and female humpback whales can produce sounds, however only the males produce the long, loud, complex "songs" for which the species is famous. Each song consists of several sounds in a low register that vary in amplitude and frequency, and typically lasts from 10 to 20 minutes.Songs may be repeated continuously for several hours, humpback whales have been observed to sing continuously for more than 24 hours at a time. As cetaceans have no vocal cords, whales generate their song by forcing air through their massive nasal cavities.Whales within an area sing the same song, for example all of the humpback whales of the North Atlantic sing the same song, and those of the North Pacific sing a different song. Each population's song changes slowly over a period of years, never returning to the same sequence of notes.
Scientists are still unsure of the purpose of whale song. Only male humpbacks sing, so it was initially assumed that the purpose of the songs was to attract females. However, many of the whales observed to approach singing whales have been other males, with the meeting resulting in a conflict. Thus, one interpretation is that the whale songs serve as a threat to other males. Some scientists have hypothesized that the song may serve an echolocative function. During the feeding season, humpback whales make altogether different vocalizations, which they use to herd fish into their bubble nets.

Procedures for Repairing your Inflatable Boat

Rips or holes larger than one inch in the air chambers or within two inches of a seam should be repaired with internal and external patches by a professional repair technician at a certified repair facility. A quick patch repair may solve your problem for a short period of time, but I recommend you have it redone by a professional.

Also I would recommend that major repairs and the addition of large accessories such as oar locks, seating or towing rings be done by a professional repair technician at a certified repair facility. If your boat is still under warranty and you are experiencing a seam failure, the wooden transom separating from the molded transom flanges or tubeset, or the fabric is turning yellow and sticky, call your dealer. Defective seams or sticky fabric can result in complete warranty coverage and you may receive a new boat for free or at a small fee.

If you you would like to attempt a small repair, here are some instructions:
Relative humidity must be less than 70%, preferably as low as 40%.
Temperature 64° to 77°F.

Never fiddle around with these. Bond strength drops very rapidly with heat or high humidity. Take your boat indoors. Don't even think about trying to glue on the dock or near the water or in direct sunlight. Professionals use a specially built, climate controlled room, and still don't attempt to work on a rainy day.

Note: You are using a two-part contact cement. The solvents in the glue must evaporate before assembly. When ready to assemble parts, the glue must not be tacky at all to the finger. It must not have spots of whitish glaze. If so, you may have spread the glue too thick, not waited long enough between coats, or a sudden drop in temperature or gust of humid air may have occurred. Someone may have opened the door, or you may have leaned too close and breathed on it. Plan to stay in the room until finished.

General Tips
Mark out your patch or accessory perimeter where it will be glued on. Then use masking tape to tape off the area to avoid getting MEK or glue on other parts of your boat during the repair process. This takes a little time but is well worth it in the end as the glue is hard to get off the boat after it dries and looks very messy when it dries and goes brown from the sun.

If using small cans ( 1/4 L) mix the entire can with the dose of accelerator. Inaccurate measurement will weaken the glue. Once opened the accelerator cannot be kept. Do not try to save it. The quality of your final bond depends on it.

Apply glue with a paint or glue brush with the bristles cut short (1/2 to 3/4") so they are stiff. It must be natural hair, bound in metal not plastic, preferably with wooden or metal handle. Careful not to get glue on areas of your boat besides the repair area.

Old glue must be completely removed, solvent, sandpaper, scraping, grinding with a dremel tool. Glue will not stick to old glue. Clean it off thoroughly. Be careful not to burn or melt the fabric if using a Dremel tool. Constant motion with the tool will prevent this problem.

If your boat has ever been protected with ArmorAll or another silicone or petroleum based product, you may have great difficulty getting a bond. Wipe the repair area well with MEK, follow the gluing instructions closely and hope for the best.

Pinhole size leaks in most Hypalonfabric or PVC boats sometimes may be repaired simply by use of either Seam Seal or Air Seal liquids. You might be able to avoid a patch on the boat.

To find tiny leaks, take floor boards out, inflate boat hard. Put some liquid detergent in a bucket of water and with rag or big wash brush, scrub it all over boat. Keep watch for elusive, tiny bubbles. When you find the first leak, keep looking. You might as well fix them all at the same time. Remember, the number one cause of slow leaks is a poorly seated valve. Unscrew, clean. Make sure little rubber O-rings are good. They are the cheapest repair possible.

If patching, cut patches 1 to 2 " larger than tear in each direction and round the corners (a quarter makes a good template for the edges). Little one inch circles pasted over a pin hole won't last. Try to get the same fabric used by the manufacturer for your boat. The inside and outside surface may be different. If you can't match color, sometimes a cleverly shaped patch in contrasting color can be made to look like decoration instead of a Band-Aid. such as a arrow, lightning bolt, even a new D ring if in right spot. Professionals often put one on each side to look like they came with the boat.

Inflate boat to apply accessories. Deflate to patch air leaks, even if very small. Air pressure will bubble the patch before glue sets. Use our inflatable boat restoration paint if your boat is old looking, looks faded, is sticky or generally looks old and ugly.

Do Not Smoke, Glues and solvents are flammable. No open flames.
Use in a well ventilated area. Fumes can be overwhelming. A carbon filter respirator is recommended. MEK solvent smells, but is relatively safe. It is recommended that you not use Toluene, the factories do but it is very dangerous.

Accelerator (small bottle) is toxic. If spilled on on your skin WASH IMMEDIATELY with soap and water. If in your eyes, IMMEDIATELY FLUSH WITH WATER for at least 2 minutes and consult a physician. (Accelerator is an isocyanate based product.) Always wear safety gear as recommended by the manufacturer of glue, solvent, or accelerator.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Inflatable Boat Maintenance

The buoyancy tube of your inflatable boat is made of fabric using plastomer PVC or neoprene/hypalon rubber.

Clean it every month, but recommended seasonally before storing for the winter.


Inflate the buoyancy tube.
Open the self bailer and wash the boat with a hose to remove sand and other particles.
Remove the floor or floorboards where applicable.
Clean all grime, stains, etc.
Check all inflatable sections for leaks, with foamy soap and water.
Rinse with fresh water and dry thoroughly.


When deflating
Check that the valves and gaskets are clean and not damaged.
Check to ensure the self bailer is not clogged.

A 20% air pressure loss in a 24 hours period is normal.

Only address more serious air leakages, such as .25 PSI in 5 hours

If you do have a problem with an air leakage:
First, check all valves are intact and in closed position (nothing clogging the valve).

When storing your boat, keep it in a clean and dry place that is not affected from major variations in temperature and other damaging environmental factors. You may store the boat deflated and rolled up or lightly inflated. If you own an inflatable with a removable tubeset, take it off for easier, cleaning. You may store the tubeset on or off the boat.



Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Boating and Kids

Educating children on radio procedures can benefit recreational boating safety in several ways. First, teach your child how to use a VHR radio properly, and should your child ever need to really use the radio, they will know how.

Proper use of nautical terminology helps, using proper terminology and radio procedure can be crucial in trusting the information the child is giving.

Basic Navigation
Nothing could be worse than providing all training, and leaving out basic navigation. All children depending on age, can be taught to read a chart, and by using landmarks, give an approximation of their location.

Making it a game, you can instill more safety values, as well as assist your child by giving them real-life experience in skills that they may not learn for several years, or only learn in a book form.

Safety Equipment
We should teach our children about the safety equipment we carry on our boats. The fire extinguisher, flares, whistles, mirrors, the radio are all items that should not be foreign to them. Remember, even though they are a child, they are a member of the crew, and while again, this is age dependent, they can be crucial to observing, and avoiding dangerous situations.

Teach your child how a fire extinguisher works. Teach them the ABC’s of fire fighting. Have them practice with an extinguisher. You may never know when this experience can come in handy, whether on the boat or in the kitchen.

Teach them about flares, the dangers and the benefits of using them properly. Teach them how to use them, when to use them, and most of all, that they are "Not a Toy".

Teach our children about whistles and mirrors, which should be attached to their PFD’s. Tell them, show them, and practice with them, not only using these pieces of safety equipment, but man overboard drills.

Our children are never too young to learn. It is just how we go about teaching them recreational boating safety that is the difference. Make a game of each lesson. Make it enjoyable. As they get older, add more and more information, so by the time our children become teenagers, they are not only able to take the boat out (local law permitting), but are fully knowledgeable about the operation of both vessel and recreational boating safety.

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary can help in this area. They have several programs for for children, such as Boating Fun (4 – 9 year olds), and Waypoints (10 – 12 year olds). Many of the older children (9 years old and up) take Boating Safely with their parents.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Orca Whales (Killer Whales)

The killer whale or orca is the largest species of the Dolphin family. It is found in all the world's oceans, from the Arctic and Antarctic regions to warm, tropical seas. Killer whales are versatile and opportunistic marine apex predators. Some populations feed mostly on bony fish while others hunt sharks and marine mammals, including sea lions, seals, walruses and even large whales. There are up to five distinct killer whale types distinguished by geographical range, preferred prey items and physical appearance. Some of these may be separate races, subspecies or even species. Killer whales are social, some populations are composed of matrilineal family groups.

The diet of these killer whales consists almost exclusively of marine mammals; they do not eat fish. Transients in southern Alaska generally travel in small groups, usually of two to six animals. Unlike residents, transients may not always stay together as a family unit. Pods consist of smaller groups with less persistent family bonds and vocalizing in less variable and less complex dialects. Female transients are characterized by dorsal fins that are more triangular and pointed than those of residents. The gray or white area around the dorsal fin, known as the "saddle patch", often contains some black coloring in residents. However, the saddle patches of transients are solid and uniformly gray. Transients roam widely along the coast, some individuals have been sighted in Southern Alaska and later in California.

Some killer whales cruise the open oceans and are believed to feed primarily on schooling fish. However, because of the large presence of scarred and nicked dorsal fins resembling that of the mammal-hunting transients, the possibility that they eat mammals and sharks cannot be ruled out. They have mostly been encountered off the west coast of Vancouver Island and near the Queen Charlotte Islands. They have been seen traveling in groups of up to 60 animals. Currently, there is little known about the habits of this population, but they can be distinguished genetically from the residents and transients. Offshores appear to be shorter than the residents and the transients and females are characterized by dorsal fin tips that are continuously rounded.

Whales make a wide variety of communicative sounds, and each pod has distinctive noises that its members will recognize even at a distance. They use echolocation to communicate and hunt, making sounds that travel underwater until they encounter objects, then bounce back, revealing their location, size, and shape.

Killer whales are protective of their young, and other adolescent females often assist the mother in caring for them. Mothers give birth every three to ten years, after a 17-month pregnancy. Orcas are immediately recognizable by their distinctive black-and-white coloring and are very intelligent.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sea Otters

The sea otter has made many adaptations in order to survive better in its habitat. First, the sea otter uses their feet to reduce or maximize heat loss when water temperatures are too hot or too cold. When the water temperatures are too cold sea otters reduce heat loss by floating on their backs with their feet out of the water. When the sea otter is trying to lose heat, they extend their feet out underwater to maximize their surface area. To preserve body heat sea otters tend to spread out or fold up their feet.

Also the sea otter has very good eyes which allow them to see very good underwater and on land. This is very useful because sea otters during some point in their life will be on both land and water. Also the sea otter has a lot of insulating fur to keep warm. Sea Otter's have roughly 850,000 to one million hairs per square inch on their body

The sea otter has long whiskers growing around their muzzle to detect fish. They can do this by detecting vibrations in the water caused by the fish’s tail. The whiskers help the sea otters hunt in any water condition. Also the molars of the sea otter are very different than other animals. There molars are for crushing things and not for fish slicing and things of that nature. All of these adaptations have helped the sea otter become comfortable in their environment.

The sea otter is one of the few animals known to use tools. It uses small rocks or other objects to pry prey from rocks and to hammer or pry open its food. The sea otter can dive up to 330 ft (100 m) when foraging for food. The thickest fur in the animal kingdom. Unlike other marine mammals, the sea otter does not have a layer of blubber to help keep it warm.

Interesting Facts
When the sea otter is underwater, its ears and nostrils close. The sea otter has webbed hind feet which are perfect for swimming, its forefeet are smaller with semi-retractable claws. Since a sea otter must generate a large amount of heat to maintain its body temperature, it must eat about 20 lbs of food a day. Abalone is a favorite food. The sea otter sleeps and rests on its back, usually anchored in a kelp bed. It sleeps at sea, sometimes joining hundreds of others in resting areas called rafts. Sea otters give birth in the ocean.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Gray Whale Senses

Hearing is the most important sense for whales. In water, sound travels four times as fast as in does in air and it also travels further. Some of the sounds whales make can be heard above water. Fishermen used to think that their moans and whistles were sea monsters or mermaids. They vocalize using clicks, groans, grunts, squeaks, rasps, and roars. These sounds are produced by squeezing air through the blowhole, or by bursts of air from the lungs.

Since their eyes are far back on their head, gray whale vision consists on two fields on either sides of the body, rather than the binocular view that humans have. There is some uncertainty about how well whales can see because their eyes are very small, although they seem to have good eyesight in both water and air. It’s unknown whether whales can see colors or not.

Gray whales are mostly bottom feeders. They swim to the bottom of the ocean, roll onto their side, and stick their head a few inches into the bottom. They expand and contract their throat grooves, and retract their tongue which creates suction that brings mud into its mouth. The mud is moved around a little and pushed out through the baleen.The food gets trapped by the baleen and the rest is pushed out the sides of the mouth.

Whales can get cancers, stomach ulcers, heart disease, pneumonia, jaundice, and arthritis. Sometimes whales are found stranded on beaches, possibly from illness, wave action, currents, or parasitic infestations / diseases which affect the whales ability to navigate.

The whale has no sense of smell. The outer ears, which in land mammals help collect the sound, have entirely disappeared. The ear openings are only the size of a knitting needle. Water, unlike air, is a very good medium for carrying sound and this might explain the small ears. It also might be the reason for other methods of communication such as breeching or sounds made within the throat.

The gray whale has good eyesight. When near the shoreline or boats, gray whales will rise vertically out of the water, just high enough to scan its surroundings. This behavior is called spyhopping and may last as long as 30 seconds.

Go Whale Watching aboard the "Whales Tail"
Depoe BayPO Box 1308, Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341
(541) 765-2545 or (800) 733-8915