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

Gray Whales and how to Identify

Gray whales appear gray with splotches of different colored abrasions, scars and barnacles on their heads and backs. The barnacles are most prevelant on the areas of the skin that are exposed to air when the gray whale breathes. The gray whale can carry over 400 pounds of barnacles and whale lice. These parasites create yellow and white patches on the whales skin.

Grays have a narrow jaw and there are 2-5 pleats on their throat to help their mouth to open and expand when they feed. Like other baleen whales, they also have 2 blow holes. Having 2 blowholes, instead of the usual 1 in most whales, allows the gray to have a varied blow. The gray will spout every 20-30 seconds and can be as high as 10-13 feet into the air. They can also produce spouts that are low and wide. Some people say their blows are heart shaped.

Grays do not have a dorsal fin, but instead a small hump with a series of knobs. They have large paddle shaped flippers and broad flukes that are 25% (one-fourth) of their total body length.

Gray whale baleen is very coarse, with 20 bristles per inch. In comparison, Sei whales have over 100 per inch. They have 300 plates of yellow-colored baleen hanging from their upper jaw.

Gray whales are medium sized as compared to other whales. Adult females are always larger than males. Full grown gray whales range from 36-50 feet (10-15m) long and weigh 16-45 tons.

How long do Gray Whales live?
The average life span is 40-50 years, with some reaching 70 years.

The only predators of gray whales are orcas (killer whales) and humans. The scarring on the gray's skin reflects the battles with the orcas. Some grays flee into shallow water while others have beached or stranded themselves to escape orcas pursuing them.

How do they communicate?
While not being know for a wide variety of sounds, the ones they make are fairly simple. Gray whale calls involve moans, rumbles and growls, with the most common being knocking sounds. These sounds range from 100 Hz to 2000 Hz, with the majority between 300 and 900 Hz. To the human ear, this is very low sounding. Low sounds travel much farther than higher pitched sounds, and allow the whale to communicate for distances over a mile or more. Gray whale sounds are much quieter than other baleen whales. Their most vocal time is during breeding season.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Gray Whale Calves

Here are some interesting facts about Gray Whale Calves

Breeding and giving birth are the reason for southern migration.

Born without a blubber layer, babies need warmer waters.

Moms bear calves about every 2-3 years.

Gestation period averages 12 months (Sperm whale 17 months).

Pregnancy is telescopic - babies double their size the last 2 months.

Babies average 15 feet long at birth (Blue whale 26 feet).

Baby whales are born tail first.

Calves weigh about 2,000 pounds at birth (Blue whale 8,000 pounds).

Babies must surface and catch their first breath within 15 seconds.

Within 30 minutes, babies learn to swim.

Babies nurse frequently on rich milk - 50-60 percent butterfat.

Babies don't suck, the mother pumps milk into its mouth.

Calves put on as much as 9 pounds an hour.

Mothers lose 1/3 of their weight while nursing.

During migration and while in calving areas, gray whales eat very little, although they occasionally will eat shrimp-like mysids or small fish at the surface. Thus the blubber they add during the summer feedings must provide energy for the remainder of the year. Many whales may go without food for 3, 4 or even 5 months. Recent research at Laguna Ojo de Liebre has shown that there are critters in the muddy bottom upon which the whales may feed.

During feeding, the gray whale appears to prefer using its right side to scour the bottom and find its food. This has been noted by several long time observers. To feed they gulp mouthfuls of mud from the bottom, then use the whiskery baleen as a filter to drain out the unwanted material. This leaves the amphipods stuck to the baleen inside their mouths. They then use their tongues to loosen the amphipods from the baleen, and swallow.

The gray whale has two blowholes, and between 9 and 14 dorsal nodules on its back, instead of a back fin. A gray whale spout or blow can reach up to 15 feet, and resembles a heart shape from the front or behind. The natural color of the gray whale is dark gray. Often the skin is discolored from barnacle scars left on the skin.

Whales are mammals. They breath air, have hair (calves have hairs around the front of their heads), are warm blooded, and give birth to live offspring that suckle milk from their mothers. The gray whale is in the sub-order Mysticeti. The Mysticeti whales have baleen instead of teeth. The male gray whale can reach 45 feet, while the female can reach 50 feet and weigh 30 or 35 tons. The largest grey whales have flukes, or tails, that may span ten feet.

Length about 40 to 50 feet. Weight about 50,000 to 80,000 pounds. I have read that they live up to 50 years. Just like people, once they reach middle age, they seem to get broader . The Gray Whales have a double blow hole.

If you ever get a chance to visit Oregon go to Depoe Bay and take a ride on the "Whales Tail"

270 Coast Guard Pl.
Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341

(541) 765-2545 or (800) 733-8915

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gray Whale Populations

Two Pacific Ocean populations of the Gray Whale are known to exist: one of not more than 300 individuals whose migratory route is unknown, but presumed to be between the Sea of Okhotsk and southern Korea, and a larger one with a population between 20,000 and 22,000 individuals in the Eastern Pacific travelling between the waters off Alaska and the Baja California.

The Gray Whale was thought to have become extinct in the North Atlantic in the 18th century. Radiocarbon dating of subfossil remains has confirmed this, with whaling the possible cause.

In the fall, the Eastern Pacific, or California, Gray Whale starts a 2–3 month trip south along the west coast of Canada, the United States and Mexico. The animals travel in small groups. The destinations of the whales are the coastal waters of Baja California and the southern Gulf of California, where they breed and the young are born. The breeding behavior is complex and often involves three or more animals. The gestation period is about one year, and females have calves every other year. The calf is born tail first and measures about 15 feet in length. It is believed that the shallow waters in the lagoons there protect the newborn from sharks.

After several weeks, the return trip starts. This round trip of back at an average speed of 1-3 mph, it is believed to be the longest yearly migration of any mammal.

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