The Whales

gray whale

With their distinctive gray patches and white mottling the streamlined, 45 foot (13.7 meters) long gray whale is sometimes one of the “friendliest” whales and will approach small boats and allow themselves to be touched. 

The slow, 3-6 mph (4.8-9.6 km/hr) grays are “coastal” whales that feed all summer in the Seas near Alaska and Siberia. In one of the longest mammalian migrations Gray whales swim 5,000 to 7,000 miles to their mating and calving lagoons. In the Eastern Pacific they end up in Baja California, Mexico and in the Western Pacific, the Sea of Japan.

Gray Whale 

17" Long x 5" High
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There they remain for 2-3 months, giving the calves time to grow a thick blubber layer to sustain on the northerly migration and allow them to survive in the chilly Arctic waters of their feeding ground.  On the 2-3 month migration (each way) mothers and calves travel very close to shore and are often attacked by Orcas, who kill some and scar many more.  Mothers are very protective of their calves and earned the name “Devilfish” from early whalers for their violent defensive behaviors.  There they were hunted to near extinction in the 1850’s after their calving lagoons were discovered. 

They continued to be heavily hunted in the early 1900’s factory ship era.  After full protection was given in 1947 by the IWC, the eastern north Pacific gray whale population made a remarkable recovery and now number over 20,000, probably close to their original population size.  The western north Pacific is severely depleted, the victims of over hunting.  There was at one time a third population in the north Atlantic, which is now extinct.



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