FINAL Gray Whale Migration Update: May 16, 2007

Today's Report Includes:

Photo:Margaret Black

How can kids help gray whales? These students know, and you can too! >>

Whale Watching: The Party's Almost Over >> 

Most whales — even some moms and babies — have reached Alaska, about 5,000 miles north of the babies' birthplace. Way up in Kodiak, Alaska, kids from Main Elementary tried to count the whales at Narrow Cape on May 2 but there were too many!

Waiting to count the last moms and babies to pass California, biologist Wayne Perryman says, "We had 19 whales last week, bringing our cow/calf total to 113, still the 4th lowest in 14 years. We had only one pair by late afternoon yesterday, so it looks like the party is about over."

When the migration "party" is over, the Beast Feast begins! An adult gray whale will swallow at least 67 tons of food during a 5- or 6-month eating frenzy on the Arctic feeding grounds.

ACS/LA Gray Whale Census had tallied 783 northbound whales, (58 were calves) when they stopped counting May 15. The team at Gray Whales Count (Santa Barbara Channel, CA) finished the season on Mother's Day, May 13. They counted 572 northbound whales, including 52 calves making their first migration. Total counts were definitely on the low side, yet "It has been a wonderful fifteen weeks on Coal Oil Point in 2007," writes Michael Smith. He speaks for all of us, too, when he says, "We wish all the whales, counted or not, safe passage."

Read the news! >>

Explore: Ice is Nice! Lesson: >>

Calf expert Wayne Perryman predicted a low calf count this year based on a slow retreat of seasonal ice last spring and summer. Wayne's research about the connection between cows and calves and ice led to this prediction. "Based on ice in the Arctic right now, it looks like next year could see a reversal in calf numbers. Ice retreat was very early, so the pregnant females from this year should be nice and fat. (If you are a female gray whale, chunky is good.)" What's the research behind his predictions? >>

Photo Mike Hawe

Journal: How Fast Did They Swim?

Write your answer in your Journal. >>

Michael (at observation post #6 on the map) sent this photo to Wayne (#7 on the map). Michael hoped Wayne would see the same whale. Then they'd know how long it took the mom/calf to get from #6 to #7. Sure enough, Wayne saw this same whale 53.5 hours later.

(A) What do you need to know in order to calculate how many miles (or Kilometers) per hour the whale swam?

(B for Bonus) How could you estimate the distance along the coastline from Pt. Piedras Blancas to Coal Oil Point (town of Goleta)? If you do this, what is your answer for the whale's rate of speed in swimming that distance?

This photo shows a female whale with a mangled tail. That's how the whale can be identified.
Photo Michael H. Smith 
Tracking the Migration: What Story Do the Numbers Tell?  Current Gray Whale Migration Data >>

Our two California counting stations have now ended their counting for the spring migration season.

  • How does the latest graph from Los Angeles compare this migration with previous years?
  • What surprising facts did the Los Angeles watchers report on May 5?
  • What was so delightful for the watchers at Gray Whales Count on May 11?
  • If you've been graphing gray whale data through the season, add the final data. >>

The whales don't reach the end of their trail until after the ice is gone. How far can the whales go before ice stops them?
Activity: Help for Ocean Habitat Look! Posters by 2nd Graders >>

Gray Whales still face many challenges, such as changes in the health of their ocean habitat. Even if you live far from the ocean, your actions can affect that ecosystem because the water cycle means "Oceans are just a river away." Each day, you can take actions to help. See resources below, and take some tips from kids at Rama Public School in Ontario. >>

Year-end Evaluation: Please Share Your Thoughts! >>

Will you take a few minutes to complete our Year-end Evaluation?

Only with your help can we document Journey North's reach, impact and value. The information you provide is critical for planning new initiatives and for improving Journey North. Thank you!

Year-end Evaluation >>

Links: Gray Whale Resources to Explore
  • Take Action: Help for Ocean Habitat >>
  • Lesson: Gray Whales and Changing Sea Ice >>
  • Lesson: Photogrammetry: A Way to Study Whales >>
  • Information: Beast Feast >>
  • Conservation News: Dip a Chip and Help Gray Whales >>
More Gray Whale Lessons and Teaching Ideas!

This is the FINAL Gray Whale Migration Update for 2007. The whales are off to a summer of feeding and fattening before the monumental migration starts all over again. Thank you for cheering them on their journey north. Best wishes to YOU for a fun-filled summer!