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Gray Whale Migration Update: April 7, 1999

Today's Report Includes:

The Whales Are Here! Latest News From the Gray Whale Observation Posts
The Gray Whales have continued their northern migration, and reached Kodiak, Alaska on March 23! (57.41N,-153.53W) We're expecting more sightings soon as they move west to access the Bering Sea and go further north. You may even get to see the whales YOURSELF, thanks to False Pass school on Unimak Island in Alaska (54.86N,-163.41W).

False Pass Students Ready for Gray Whale Parade
False Pass is at the narrowest point of the gray whale migration and Teacher John Concilus says: "We'll have kids out on the dock counting...possibly twice during the week they begin to get hourly count samples." He already has live shots of the actual pass the whales come through:

John says you can stand on the dock and drop pebbles on the whales as they
migrate through the narrows (he doesn't do that, he was just making a point about how close the whales have to pass to shore).

Further south, northbound whales continue to be reported along the entire migration route, from Los Angeles to Alaska, although in fewer numbers at some locations. The highlights of Susan's report are provided below, and you can link to additional information at:

Northbound Sightings
As of Monday, April 5, 1202 northbound gray whales and fourteen cow/calf pair have been counted by the American Cetacean Society (ACS) census from Point Vicente on the Palos Verdes Peninsula near Los Angeles (33.44N,-118.24W). Alisa Schulman-Janiger, the coordinator for the ACS census, saw the peak around March 23 and is seeing fewer whales now. As of April 5, this year's northbound whale count (1202) is above average compared to the last ten years' counts, but lower than the 15 year average and the 1998 count (approximately 1300). The last southbound count was on March 23.

Baby Brigade Update
This year 14 cow/calf pairs have been counted by April 5 at Palos Verdes Peninsula near Los Angeles (33.44 N, -118.24 W). The peak of the cow/calf count on average is around March 22-24. Alisa tells me that the first cow/calf pair was sighted at Point Piedras Blancas(35.66N,121.28W) on Sunday, April 4.

Slightly north, in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary near Santa Barbara (34.22N,-119.49W) several small courting/mating pods of gray whales were sighted again by Whale Corp from aboard the M/V Rachel G, but they have only seen a total of 24 northbound gray whales between March 17 and March 30. And Virg's Landing of Morro Bay (35.19N,-120.54W) is reporting only a few whales, but he has only gone out twice in the last two weeks because of weather. Nancy Black of Monterey Bay Whale Watch reports 10 northbound gray whales per three hour trip last week,
March 29-April 2, down from the 15 per three hour trip reported in the last report.(36.67N,-122.00W).

Further north in Newport, Oregon, (44.64 N,-124.00W) Christina Folger from Marine Discovery says the whales have moved closer to shore since our last report, and reports four whales per two hour tour. And in Westport, Washington, (46.50N,-124.50W), Geoff Grillo of Advantage Sport Fishing reports that his friends that run charters estimate 8-10 whales per hour, similar to his report for the last report.

Susan Payne with son Will Ross H. Dumm

I was unable to make contact with any of my Vancouver Island contacts because of phone difficulties. However, Rod Palm, the principle investigator for the Strawberry Island Research Society in Tofino (49.10N, -125.93W) e-mailed me on March 26 that the Tofino fleet was mostly prevented from getting out on the ocean because of storm conditions, but that when it was possible they were seeing 3-4 whales passing there per hour.

In Seward, Alaska,(59.85N,-149.39W) Mike Brittain of the M/V Renown and Leslie Hines of Kenai Fjords Tours are reporting several sightings of 3-5 gray whales in last few weeks.

And meanwhile in Kodiak(57.41N,-153.53W), several observers have reported their "first" gray whale sightings on March 23, in plenty of time for Whale Fest Kodiak. From here, the Gray Whales will continue their way along the east side of Kodiak Island towards Unimak Pass and the Bering Sea.

Challenge Question #5
"Using the sites below, take a look at the sea ice conditions and predict how far north the gray whales can get at this time?"

(To respond to this Challenge Question, please follow the instructions at the end of this report.)

Spring is in the Air
On Easter Sunday, a cold day of snow squalls, the only signs of Spring I could detect around our home was the shrill song of the varied thrush and the acrobatic soaring of bald eagles, possibly preparing for their mating season. However, on Monday April 5, all of a sudden I could feel spring in the air; we saw a couple of snowshoe hares and they were just beginning to turn from white to brown. The days are lengthening: on April 7 sunrise is 0622 and sunset is 2003 for a total of 13 hours and 48 minutes of daylight.

Susan Payne
National Marine Fisheries Service
Alaska Fisheries Science Center
Kodiak, Alaska

Eschrichtius robustus: Discussion of Challenge Question #4
In the last report, I asked you "What does Eschrictius robustus mean in latin?". "Eschrichtius robustus" is the scientific name for gray whale. The genus name, Escrichtius, comes from the Danish scientist D. F. Eschricht. The species name, robustus, means strength or strong in Latin.

Several classes wrote to answer this question, and some went to great lengths doing research to find their answers:

"After 3 hours of looking on the internet, we ended up calling Oregon State Univ. Marine Science Center Library. The librarian found a book from Monterey Bay which said Eschrichtius comes from Eschrich, the last name of a Danish Zoologist, robustus is from latin robust meaning strength."(barb daniels <

"A few weeks ago we came across a strange word--Eschrichtius robustus, and we found out what it meant. Today we saw it as a challenge question, and knew exactly what it meant. It is the scientific name for a gray whale." Steph, Kate & Danielle, gr. 5. Scott Young PS (

And Mrs. Sgalippi's Gray Whale Group wrote this: "Dear Journey North, The answer to challenge question #4 is......Eschrihtius-robustus means gray whale. We found this answer in the World Book Software." Sincerely, ( Horsham Pa, 19044

Report your FIRST Gray Whale Sighting to Journey North

Report the FIRSTnorthbound Gray Whale you see this spring to Journey North!

If you live along the Gray Whale migration route on the West Coast, we hope you'll help provide gray whale migration data this spring. To track the whales' trip to their northern feeding grounds we are collecting the following information:
  • Date of first sighting of northbound gray whales.
  • Date of first sighting of northbound gray whale mother/calf pairs.

Helpful Links and Special Thanks!
Today's data and observations were generously shared by the many people named in Susan's Field Notes, and by the following organizations:

How to Respond to Today's Gray Whale Challenge Question:

1. Address an e-mail message to:
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question # 5
3. In the body of the message, give your answer to the question above.

The Next Gray Whale Migration Update will Be Posted on April 21, 1999.

Copyright 1999 Journey North. All Rights Reserved. Please send all questions, comments, and suggestions to our feedback form

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