gray whale breaches off the Oregon coast.
Photo: Oregon State University
Marine Mammal Program
Stand up and take notice
vistas, picturesque lighthouses, storms with pounding surf Ö these are the sights
most people associate with the Oregon Coast.
park yourself for a spell on an Oregon beach -- or better, a promontory -- in
fall or spring, and you might just have an additional visual adventure: a migrating
pod of whales.
for spouting, breaching (heads straight up in the water) and flukes and tails
and you'll have an Oregon experience to remember.
humpback and sperm whales make their south annual December pilgrimages from the
chilly waters of Alaska to their mating and birthing grounds in warmer Baja Mexican
sperm whales and humpbacks are still endangered species, gray whale numbers are
on the increase in recent years, according to Dr. Bruce Mate, curator of marine
mammals at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. Even a weekend trip
in fall or spring might afford a sighting or two from casual observance.
to get a good look? Here's a quick guide to whale watching along the Oregon Coast.
Boat charters can get you right next to the whales, but it's also possible to
see the visitors from solid ground.
Where to Go?
with lighthouses are the best places to see whales. There are many other on-shore
spots to go to where volunteers stand by on weekends to answer questions.
State Parks, in collaboration with the Hatfield Marine Science Center trains volunteers
and supplies maps for the observation posts.
sheer numbers of sightings, Neahkahnie Mountain on the north coast and Yaquina
Head on the central coast top the list. Bear in mind that whale counts can vary
considerably from season to season and year to year. And, of course, the numbers
of people whale-watching at a particular location affects the counts, too. More
people: more sightings.
Weather can be stormy, of course, so pack your wind-proof parka,
your gloves, wool socks and warm hat. Borrow some binoculars if you donít own
a decent pair. As the Swedish proverb reminds us: There is no such thing as bad
weather, just improper clothing.
Watching Spoken Here"
"Whale Watching Spoken Here" is a
volunteer whale-watching program during peak gray whale migration times coinciding
with winter and spring breaks, recently dubbed a "migration-vacation" connection.
Trained volunteers stationed at all 29 locations on or near the Oregon Coast provide
information and assist spotting whales from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. during whale watch
Whale Watch Weeks
watch weeks are always Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, 2009.
Spring Whale Watch
Week is from Mar. 21 through Mar. 28, 2009
these weeks have provided numerous whale sightings. During the most recent watch,
for example, there were 1,123 sightings and officials called that a low showing.
the weather is bad, however, numbers may be down. Experts say gray whales tend
to move offshore during stormy weather and stay offshore for a few days.
are the largest species, but they're not exactly gray. They are actually a bluish
white. They can reach at least 35 feet in length and weigh more than 30 tons -
10 times the size of a large elephant.
migrate from November through March, traveling in large groups. They blow up to
14 feet in V-shaped blows are sometimes "resident" to certain areas where they