Monday, December 1, 2008

Passing Giants

(Photo: Grey whale tail by corradodebari, all rights reserved.)

The start of each year is about time for the peak of the gray whale migration to pass along our coastline, as the giant mammals head south for the breeding areas in Mexican lagoons. They are so bunched up in mid to late January, passing at rates up to 20 an hour, it’s usually easy to see them from the higher points – Cypress Point, Carmel Point, Point Lobos or any of the Highway 1 turnouts through Big Sur. The 35-ton whales will tend to reproduction matters, then head back to the Arctic to feed until it’s time to repeat the 12,000-mile migration next year. They are more scattered and spread out on the northern return, usually passing here in March, April and May. There are 18,000 to 20,000 gray whales today, after a slow recovery from the 19th century when whalers hunted them to near extinction. Some whales show stress and malnourishment as global warming changes habitats and food supply, but most grays seem to be adapting, according to marine biologists who study them.

(Below is a video of a whale watching trip in Monterey Bay, courtesy of absmin, all rights reserved.)

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