Gray Whale Migration Update: February 9, 2000
Live From the Gray Whale Nurseries
"A mother gray whale spyhops a few feet from the boat. Her baby frolics nearby. The calf rolls along her mother's back as the huge whale surfaces to breathe. Both take one more breath, arch their backs, and slowly disappear into the water. A few minutes pass as we wait for the whales to return to the surface. The calf comes up first, and we see bright orange "whale lice" encircling her blowhole. The mother surfaces soon after, takes a breath, and turns towards the boat. Hands splashing in the water are now gently touching the mother whale. The calf now seems to have permission to come up to the boat, playfully lifting her head out of the water so that we can touch her skin. No one truly understands why these whale-human interactions occur. Is the mother teaching her calf about boats & humans? Or are we a way to entertain a curious young whale?
"Hi, Journey North students! This is my first week here in Laguna San Ignacio. I am a marine biologist working as a naturalist for Baja Discovery, taking folks whale watching twice a day. How many whales are here? A January 27, 2000, census of gray whales arriving in this lagoon found 63 single whales and 14 mother/calf pairs. On February 3rd, a second census counted 70 single whales and 25 mother/calf pairs in San Ignacio.
"San Ignacio Lagoon has long been a safe place for mother whales and their calves. One area (1/4) of the lagoon is set aside for whale watching, while the rest (3/4) of the lagoon is for the whales only. Approximately 120 families live in several small fishing villages around the lagoon and make their living there. They spend part of the year catching fish and lobsters and the other part taking tourists whale watching. Kuyima Ecotourismo is the organization of local people who make the decisions about whale watching. Laws limit the number of boats and the amount of time boats can spend on the water. San Ignacio Lagoon is a great example of how people can live sustainably within their environment. I hope this gives you some idea about what it's like here in San Ignacio Lagoon. I'll be writing to you again!" Kristin "Ellie" Kusic
Holy Cow, What a Calf!
Keith Jones is crazy about the baby whales in the lagoons. This seasoned guide, photographer, and whale advocate writes from San Ignacio to tell us more:
"Because they are still learning and gaining strength, most of the babies' time is spent swimming alongside their mothers. When they get tired, we could see them stretch out sideways across the mother's back to rest. Sometimes we observed the mother extending a fin to support the calf. This is very much like an adult parent, who might place a hand under their child's stomach while teaching the child how to swim.
"The warmer waters of Baja Mexico's shallow lagoons help newborns to conserve body heat. They are born lean and relatively blubberless. The calves nurse for around 6 months, during which time the mother provides up to 50 gallons of milk each day. The milk contains 53% fat, and calves may gain 60 to 70 pounds daily, building up blubber for their cold trip north."
That's all for now! Best regards to all the Gray Whale Advocates out there from Keith (Baja) Jones.(Baja Jones Adventure Travel)
How 'Bout Those Babies?
Using clues and photos in Today's Update, see if you can answer these Challenge Questions:
Coming to the Rescue
Keith Jones also wrote, "Baby gray whales are usually born in the lagoons of Baja. Of course, just as with people, the actual birth can occur early and anywhere along the migration route." What happens then? Read what Keith did when he found a stranded gray whale newborn.
Latest Highlights from the Gray Whale Observation Posts
Welcome back to Susan Payne, in her third year of reporting for a network of experts and
The first northbound gray whales have been spotted, but the southward migration is still in full swing! Again
this year, the whales are running late. As recently as January 22, four whales were seen plowing past Kodiak, Alaska.
Off the California coast, Nancy Black of the Monterey Bay Whale Watch (36.37 N,-121.54 W) still reports southbound
groups of 20 to 30 whales, somewhat unusual for this time of year.
Arrival in Kodiak: Challenge Question #3
Use the clues below to answer...
How to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions:
Please answer ONLY ONE question in EACH e-mail message.
1. Address an e-mail message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #1 (or #2 or #3).
3. In the body of EACH message, give your answer to ONE of the questions above.
The Next Gray Whale Migration Update Will Be Posted on February 23, 2000.
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