Last Thursday, we welcomed scholars from Mr. Dunbeck’s class at Marblehead Elementary aboard the Ocean Adventure. These students were really on top of their Gray Whale knowledge! The day was beautiful, and after a quick orientation and introduction to our data collection procedures at the dock, we were underway. Our official time “on effort” was 10:20 a.m. The water was  60 degrees, with the tide moving in.

Not long after our trip, we encountered a large pod of common dolphins. We estimated at least 125 individuals were present in this group, and they were socializing and enjoyed bow-riding the boat’s waves. We also saw California sea lions associating with them. Our transect is marked below. The purple pin on the far left marks where we sighted the dolphins at about 10:25 a.m. (not long after our initial departure!). These dolphins were moving up the coast, and we stayed with them for about 15 minutes before moving on in search of our target species, the gray whale!

As you can see from our transect, we circled back closer to shore and traveled up coast in about 20 fathoms of water until sighting a gray whale traveling down coast at about 10:57.  Check out these junior scientists at work!

We recorded the respiration rates of this single individual. As is typical of a traveling gray whale, this one took a few short breaths at the surface before submerging for a longer interval. We observed the whale through several cycles of this breathing; its average long dive interval was 5 minutes and 42 seconds. We left this whale at 11:29, after traveling quite some distance, as noted by the purple pin at the bottom right of the transect (end waypoint).  All in all, it was a great day. Below are our data forms, showing how we study gray whales “in the field.”