Michael H Smith is the Project Coordinator of Gray Whales Count, a non-profit research/education project based in California studying the migration of the Gray Whale. The northward migration of the Gray Whale is one of the easiest to see and follow because they hug the coast of Mexico, the US, and Canada to northern Alaska. This journey of some 12,000 to 20,000 kilometres is believed to be one of the longest of any mammal.
For the past three weeks Michael H Smith has been waiting for the first whales to leave the warm waters around California for the food-abundant waters of the arctic. A few days ago he told us that the “whale watching season has begun in the Santa Barbara Channel and the target is the northbound migration of Gray Whales". Clearly, the tourists are expecting whales and we are approaching the time of year that the whales usually start to migrate but up to this point, they have not moved.
We then heard this from Michael: “as we all know, not many northbound whales have been seen in the Channel yet, and so the wise Captain Mat listened to his radio and heard boats in the east Channel talking about a sighting. Instead of west towards Coal Oil Point, he steered the Condor to the east, where he found two whales, indeed northbound, but twenty-five miles in a straight line from our position. We know whales don't necessarily travel in a straight line. Even so, we were hoping this pair might arrive before 5 and be counted.”
The Gray Whale migration of 2008 has officially begun but how will the numbers of newborn calves compare with previous years? Is climate change resulting in fewer calves?
Next Gray Whale report: Michael H Smith describes the Gray Whales' migration route
Michael H Smith's daily Gray Whale Count