Gray Whale, the Tale of the Tail……

WEB whale JS-PSF-09-07-12

Gray whale

Gray Whale Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Eschrichtiidae
Genus: Eschrichtius
Scientific Name: Eschrichtius robustus

Fluking is done when a whale raises its tail to the air. This often happens when the whale is just about to dive.
As its head is pointed down, the tail automatically rises out of the water before disappearing for a good while while diving.
This is known to be done by humpback whales, blue whales, sperm whales and others.

The whale blow is a classic sight. It happens when a whale surfaces to empty its lungs from air and then breath new, fresh air in again.
Unlike fish, whales cannot get oxygen from the water and need to surface to breath in air.
It is done between the dives and it is sometimes done many times in a row. The blows are different for different species so they can be used for identification.

Below is the captain notes from our whale watching excursion:

On 1/30/18 in the morning:  6 gray whales and Pacific White Sided Dolphins

On 1/30/18 in the afternoon:  7 gray whales

Afternoon Cruise: We saw 7 whales total. The first 3 whales were within 2 miles of Pt. Loma. We followed them for several miles with good views until they became boat-shy. We found another pair several miles away which gave us great spouts and flukes and we followed them to the Mexican border. Heading back to the Point we encountered our last pair of whales. We watched them until we ran out of time. The trip ended with one of the whales swimming directly under the bow of the boat.

The annual migration of the gray whale is one of the longest mammal migrations averaging 10 to 14 thousand miles round trip.  The whales leave the Bering and Chukchi Seas and head south for mating and calving season.  The whales travel south to the lagoons in Baja California, Mexico.  This trip last 2-3 months and the whales stay in Baja for about 2-3 months to “fatten up” for the return trip northbound.

The gray whale has a dark body with gray patches.  The whale skin is covered with white barnacles and orange whale lice that live on the whale its entire life.  The whale can live 55 to 70 years.  The adult species is about 45 feet in length and weighs 40 tons.  The calves are 15 feet long and weigh from 1,500 to 2,000 pounds at birth.

The Tale of the Tail

A poem by Pam Taylor

Once there was a girl who loved to go whale watching

She enjoys the salt laden mist blowing across her face

The Hornblower heads out from the harbor into the expansive Pacific Ocean

There are a flurry of sights to internalize and photograph

The mirrored glass of the downtown buildings reflects the luminous sunlight

Ebony cormorants are fishing from the rickety wooden pier

California sea lions lazily sun themselves on the buoy markers

The brown pelican glides low and close to the water surface

Peripheral vision allows the “puff” of air to be seen

The exhaling breath explodes like a pressure gasket from a broken seal

It won’t be long before the sight of the elusive tail appears

As the gargantuan beast prepares for the deep dive

Into the depths of the ocean floor.

Crustaceans such as amphipods and isopods

Slip through the baleen which filters the tasty morsels from the muddy grunge.

Success will soon be achieved for the girl who lived this tale.

The girl who yearned for the perfect “shot”of the tail fluke

Of the barnacle laden gray whale was seen

On that memorable day in January.

Azure water falls from the tail like a cascading river

Of refreshing precipitation.

The sun glistens on the water producing rainbow hues,

So brilliant that it is blinding.

Success, that perfect image is finally achieved.

A masterful coup over nature took place the day.

Now this tale will end with an exhilarated photographer,

One who is so grateful for the miracle of natures’ culmination

Of the tale of the tail.




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