by Dr. Kayla Causey

As soon as we returned to the dock with our first two classes from Canyon Vista, we loaded up two more 5th grade classes and headed right back out to the same spot. We were hoping that the whale would still there. We departed at 10:15, and fortunately the fog had cleared! It was turning out to be a beautiful, calm day on the water.

We caught up with 2 whales just off the point again. There was a sea lion in the water with them, and again the whales were circling the same area, possibly feeding or socializing with one another. We saw a lot of rolling and even spyhopping. I told the scholars that they were seeing more parts of a whale’s body than many people ever see! Check out this amazing photo of one whale’s eye!

Look at this whale’s eye! Great photo by our GWF volunteer, Carla Mitroff

We watched these whales for almost an hour. They were taking their time making their way up the coast. For several minutes at a time they would pause and roll around, showing pectoral fins and flukes, taking long dives (4-5 minutes). Then they would take up traveling again, submerging for only 1-2 minutes at a time as they meandered up the coast. At around 11:12, they moved into shallower water but otherwise continued along their heading. Our average speed throughout the entire observation as we followed the whales was only 5 mph.

As the whales took us farther up the coast, we decided it was time to head back to the dock and ended our sighting at about 11:24. Just as the captain turned the boat and revved the engines… Breach! It’s not uncommon for gray whales to breach like this when they hear the RPMs of the engine increasing. It’s likely that the sound of the boat motor is stimulating to them, but it’s unclear whether this stimulation negatively impacts the whales or is simply exciting. Gray whales don’t breach every time a boat departs from them; however, more often than not when they do breach, it’s seen by passengers off the back of the boat as they’re pulling away. So often, in fact, that Carla (one of our volunteers) had just said, “Don’t take your eyes off the back of the boat just yet…” and then it happened! Fortunately for us, she was ready with her camera and captured these great shots! What a great way to end two exciting trips.