The Whales of Point Reyes

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【Summary】The greatest beasts on Earth will swim up to 10,000 miles per year as a part of their epic migratory regimen. The gray whale is a warm blooded mammal and a magnificent one at that. While California is well known for its many natural wonders ranging from Yosemite National Park to the Redwoods and Sequoias, few of those wonders can rival the sight of the gray whale leaping from the water along with her baby calf.

Original   Anthony  ·  Sep 28, 2016 11:00 PM PT
author: Anthony   

By Anthony C. LoBaido

"We are the only species which, when it chooses to do so,
will go to great effort to save what it might destroy."
— Wallace StegnerPOINT REYES, California –

The greatest beasts on Earth will swim up to 10,000 miles per year as a part of their epic migratory regimen. The gray whale is a warm blooded mammal and a magnificent one at that. While California is well known for its many natural wonders ranging from Yosemite National Park to the Redwoods and Sequoias, few of those wonders can rival the sight of the gray whale leaping from the water along with her baby calf. The newborns already weight up to 2000 pounds. They suckle milk from their mothers which is about 40 percent fat!

The best place to witness this once-in-a-lifetime sight is at the Point Reyes National Seashore north of San Francisco. Check out their official website right here.

There are a wide variety of Bed & Breakfast type places to stay when you travel to Point Reyes. You'll definitely enjoy the wines and cuisine at the local restaurants. It's truly a relaxing place. There's also the chance to go on short hikes, including a nice walk down to the local lighthouse.

While you're at Point Reyes, you're likely to run into people from all over the world, including Scandinavia, New Zealand, India, the Middle East, Canada and elsewhere. Whales are international ecological celebrities and the desire to protect them is almost universal. Whale watchers at Point Reyes often show up with binoculars and nautical charts, as well as both still and video cameras. You certainly won't want to miss the moment when the whales emerge!

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The migration pattern of the gray whale goes between Alaska and Baja, California. The reason the whales swim the 10,000 miles involves the search for food and of course, reproduction. They swim 5,000 miles in 55 days during each segment of the journey. Mid-January and mid-March are the best times to catch a glimpse of the whales at Point Reyes. These creatures have fascinated mankind from time immemorial. For example, Moby Dick is a classic work of literature. Shackleton, the great Antarctic explorer, noted the unique lifestyle of the whale hunters stationed on South Georgia, a remote island in the rough seas of the South Atlantic.

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The Pacific gray whale is a remarkable creature when compared to homo sapiens. It swims at a great depth that would simply crush a human being. It's warm blooded, (as noted) and a mammal, yet it can survive icy water temperatures which humans would otherwise eschew.
During the summer in the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia, a single grey whale might plow 100 acres at the bottom of that great waterway. That would be the equivalent to 100 American football fields. The furrows created by the gray whale then become home for various organisms. The mud that the whales release upwards from the sea floor during their plowing will unleash vital nutrients that are important to the greater ecosystem of the sea. This delicate balance always provides a sense of awe and wonder.

Their whale oil has long been highly-coveted. They've been featured in films and television shows ranging from the "Star Trek" franchise to "Third Rock from the Sun." They've been hunted to near-extinction, yet they are somehow continuing to fight for their very survival.
There are now probably 27,000 grey whales swimming in the Pacific Ocean. During the Great Depression of the 1930's, that number had dwindled to only 1,000.  Grey whale hunting was banned in 1936. And an international moratorium on whale hunting was signed after the end of World War II. (This transnational agreement was signed in 1947.)

Their water spouts never fail to take one's break away. They sing their own variety of songs rivaling those of the siren-like mythical mermaids of yore. In short — no visit to California would be complete without a visit to Point Reyes! 

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