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Whale Watching on the Lost Coast and at Shelter Cove,California is a big activity. The locals and tourist alike go to the headlands, the bluffs and beaches to see the great mammoth beasts that cruise the waters along this California Coast. There are no organized Whale watching services such as guided tours, or charter boats. We have a real vantage point, however, since the land body at Shelter cove protrudes into the ocean and is like standing on a giant peer. In the early summer the California Gray whale moves along the coast close in and can be seen clearly with there young calves by their sides. My first encounter with a whale was from my campsite near the beach. I was having my morning coffee and discussing the up coming day with a friend when I saw, what appeared to be an up turned boat in the surf. When my friend and I stood to get a better look it was a cow whale and her calf. The ocean was calm and the scene was very impressive. On another occasion I was sitting on the beach in a state of meditation viewing the sea, experiencing the foggy morning and gentle breeze, when a huge whale surfaced just beyond the surf line. It surprised me and sent my emotions rushing though me, to the point of bringing tears to my eyes. I could never guarantee that you or your family would see whales as I have. But to see the animal in it's natural state, and witnessing it from this most natural environment is a very spiritual experience. There are several species of whales that frequent this area. Of course there is the:

California Grey whale.

The California Grey whale migrates from as far south as the tip of Baja California Sur in Mexico and points along the Mexican coast including, Bahia de Ballenas, Bahia Magdalena, and the Lagoons near Guerrero Negro to the Bering Straits and points on north to Barrow Alaska. This migration starts in the luxuriantly rich food supplies available in the cold plankton filled waters in the northern reaches of North America and the Upper Asia continents. During the summer months the pods fill on the krill replenish the fat and build the energy levels of the pods for the migration south starting from the north in the late fall. The impregnated females start the migration by leading the organized pods south. Leaving the immature, unattached or rouge males to linger along behind. This helps to account for the long parade of whales that pass along the coast. After their arrival in southern latitudes they bear there new born. Some of the cows may actually give birth as far north as Oregon on the trip south. During the mild Mexican winter they suckle there young and build up their strength for the journey north. Some whales probably never make it all the way south before they are met with the first of the returning whales headed north again this is the main body of the northern migration that is more direct then the southern. The first big group is followed by females and their young calves heading back north along the surf line at times to provide food and protection from predators.

We see this spectacular event at Shelter Cove when in the early spring April thru June the whales arrive right off the rocks with there young. Raising and diving in the surf slowly moving north. Sometimes, as in the case of the mother and calf that I had seen on my first siting, they will stay in the area feeding for a week or two since the food supply is especially good here on the Lost Coast. The migrations as I have mentioned are not neatly defined as all inclusive. Larger and larger numbers of the Grey Whales prefer not to make the entire migration an hang around areas along the way with the body of the estimated 25000 (1996) whales scattered along the route. Some in California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska waters.

Other baleen whale species have been reported to be in these waters from time to time is the:

  Humped Back whale.

They are mostly native to Hawaii and Alaska has migrated though these waters, but this migration pattern is not necessarily traditional. They have a general route of migration between Hawaii and Glacier Bay in Alaska.

An other whale seen along the Lost Coast is the:
Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)

The blue whale is one of the largest animals ever to have lived on earth. It is almost as long as a Boeing 737 and is the largest of all cetaceans. Typical full-grown length about 82-85 feet Color: bluish-gray with grayish white patches. It has a small triangular dorsal fin (apx 12 in.), located toward the end of its back. Ranges from tropical to subarctic seas around the world.

Feeding, Migration and Population

Blue whales feed almost exclusively on krill and pelagic red crabs. Whenever they spend an extended period of time in a given area, it is usually due to an ample supply of these organisms. Blue whales usually occur alone or in pairs. Large groups have been reported where prey are abundant, particularly off of Mexico.

Studies suggest that Blue whales probably migrate in a pattern that is similar to that of the California Grey whale. They can be seen off the west coast of Baja California in large numbers in April. They appear in the area again in October, but have not been reported between November and January. Catches of blue whales from British Columbia shore stations peaked in June and September, suggesting a northward movement past Vancouver Island in spring and a southward shift in autumn.

Not much is known of the total population of these giants. Because there has been a progressively more frequent number of sightings of the blue whales each year off California. The best guess using current data as been around 2,134 near California in the mid 90's.

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