||February 11, 1998
Santa Barbara, California
The Grays have started the return trip of their 10,000-12,000 mile round trip migration from Bering and Chukchi seas between Alaska and Siberia to the warm lagoons of Baja California and western Mexico. We have heard scattered reports of northbound gray whales. This is just about the time of year that we begin to see northbound animals off our coast. We are also still seeing some southbound animals. Unfortunately, due to the heavy rains and surf that we have had lately, many of the whale-watching boats have been unable to go out. I hope to have more specific sightings details next week as the weather calms down.
This year I will work with Whale Corps Program, volunteer naturalists trained by the Sanctuary and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History to provide sightings information for these Journey North reports. Whale Corps volunteers provide educational information to passengers aboard the CONDOR whale-watch vessel out of Santa Barbara.
I will also be contacting Islands Packers out of Ventura for regular Gray whale updates. They have compiled a marine mammal sightings WWW page that you may want to visit.
J.J. the Gray Whale Update
January 11, 1998, marked the one-year anniversary that J.J. has been under the care of Sea World of California's beached animal team. There are plans to release her back into the wild this spring. J.J. is the only newborn gray whale to have ever been rescued and rehabilitated. She now measures 29 feet, 6 inches and weighs 17,000 pounds. She continues to grow at a rate of 36 pounds a day (1.5 pounds an hour) and a quarter inch in length each day.
Sea lions fitted with video cameras are slowly being introduced into J.J.'s 1.7 million gallon pool. . These sea lions have been trained the past two years to videotape and tag a free-swimming baleen whale in hopes of learning more about the underwater giants. Researchers are designing satellite tracking devices which provide depth and dive duration information, and equipment drills are under way to secure spring reintroduction to the ocean. Testing is being done on a 32-foot stretcher, which was custom made from ballistic nylon and webbing and is supported by two 32-foot-long steel pipes. The sling will be hoisted above the boat with a 20-ton cargo boom. Simulated drills will include releasing 18,000-pound weighted buoys into the ocean. Testing will be conducted on the Conifer, a 180-foot Coast Guard buoy-tender.
You can go to the Sea World homepage at and see J.J. with a live video camera that has been put into her pool.