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From beyond the horizon they come each with. Their presence betrayed by charcoal flukes rising and falling. The occasional thrust of a great black back above the surface. Of a white spout geyser ring above the surrounding and swell. Few spectacles of the sea intrigue scientists and sightseers alike as dramatically as does their annual migration along the coast of the California. No other marine mammal parades for more spectators let practices close study in its habitat. As does the california gray whale. This is one in a series of programs titled down to the sea. Series concerned with that great world ocean that affects the life of virtually every living thing on this globe. A series of programs exploring the growth of ocean related industries of life in the deep end of the quest for knowledge that takes the modern oceanographer
down to the sea. Subtitled the great gray whales. Today's program takes us from the Arctic waters to the coast of Mexico as we explore the migratory habits of the California belly and whale. For information on this magnificent animal. We took our tape recorder to the office of one of the leading authorities on the gray whale. Dr. Raymond M. Gilmore research associate marine mammals Museum of Natural History in San Diego. When we talk about the Gray Well Dr. Gilmore what type of mammal are we actually discussing you know discussing one of the most interesting animals that writers ever say you know. You're likely to say OK I can but that he and the. Ocean's a big place and there's a lot of animals. And I'm going to make a living out there. But they.
The fact that a mammal breathes air and has warm bathtub brings for this young alive can make a living in the ocean painted enormous size. Force. One of the most striking parts about this whole thing. Whales. What kind of critters are you mentioned the vast amount of food required to keep the birds who will live where is their main feeding ground. Nearly all of the ballet in Wales as nearly all of them without with one exception perhaps which is a quite difficult species. To the regions or to the higher latitudes. Believe summer conditions prolong sunlight produces an enormous crop of life that they apparently have found that it's easier for them and their survival
as a species as a population. To feed the heavily. Prodigiously gluttonously food when it is available and they find it available in the northern and southern latitudes at as high latitude so they migrate all of them migrate to the higher latitudes in summer feed extensively lay down an enormous amount of fat on the body like putting money in the bank. Their energy budget for the year is stuck on the bank so that they can spend the rest of the year perhaps seven months living almost entirely upon the fact which they have accumulated over that short but very intense.
Feeding period in the summertime at the end of their feeding season when the waters begin to get called in the Arctic regions the great wells undertake quite a migration. Isn't this generally considered to be the longest known migration. Of any mammal. Yes not a bird but a matter of the fact that these ancient animals travel so close to the coast provides us with a rather unique opportunity to study these migratory patterns doesn't it. That's yes. Graham while quite obviously lends itself to studying of the orientation are factors in migration or long distances and I think we can say after looking at the growth of hair and testing for the last 20 years. That the gray whale finds his way. Well actually coastal navigation Geographic memory places landmarks like submarine canyons like headlines like Betty is
perhaps a certain tastes in the water. They obviously very clearly show that they can remember their course and I believe they learned to a great extent. They're scattered out for our great ally. Perhaps five or six or 5000 miles from the head of the tailend along the coastline and across the Gulf of Alaska. The whales passing close to land can easily be seen from a high promenade Tory called Point Loma that juts into the ocean at the entrance to San Diego harbor. Here at Cabrillo national monument we talk to two of the rangers of the National Park Service Jim Hardin and white wrath in the winter months between December and March. We pick up quite a bit of visitation because many people are coming out to see the migration the California gray whales and during these mines we go up to probably a hundred eight hundred ten thousand people out here. The visitor can see the whale expelling its breath and
giving a loud a large whom the steam in the air which is spouting sometimes called. And so while they are far away it is still an exciting thing to be spotting the whales as they go by. But the migration starts about mid December last year I think or a little earlier I think a sixth of December we spotted our first whale and the public starts coming at this time actual migration though in its full height is the month of January December and February. It's not that good. The chance to see in a way are fairly slim but in January I'd say a person spending one hour out here is almost guaranteed a scene in Wales and my dad to help the visitor understand the gray whale migration all better. We offer two points of interpretation at the mine and one at our whale overlook. Here we have a taped message given the life history of the California gray whale and something about its migration and then in the auditorium of our visitor center we have a movie. In title the California gray whale that was produced by Scripps Institute of Oceanography in the cooperation with the national parks are in by going to these two places at the monument. The vision should come away with quite understanding of the
California gray whale and its migration. Perhaps a better way of seeing it however is go by boat which is offered by many of our commercial fishing operations here in San Diego. There are several places on a Shelter Island and on a Mission Bay which take boat people out and you get a real close hand look at the very whale. One of the fishing firms that runs will watching boats out of San Diego is fishing a sleek modern boat to talk to the skipper. I think H&M was one of the original
to run boats out there and I've been doing it myself now for close to 10 years. What kind of success do you have in finding the whales once you get out there and how far out do you have to go as a rule. Most of the time we would have to go more than about two miles off the point. And so far this year they've been really easy to find. How close to the wells do you get and what do you see will always be. Oh I see a couple hundred feet. So you can see you get a real good look as you follow him. Most of the time they'll follow kind of a routine. Pattern is the way they travel they all come up and blow two or three times and then they all make a deep dive and they all stay down for a little while. And a lot of times you'll see two or three whales up at the same time all spouting a lot of time to see the big fluke or the tail come up in the air and very rarely you'll see one just almost clear the water completely. We came a little closer than we like to come to one
last year we actually did bump one last year and it was purely accidental We don't want to get that close to him but this one made a real sudden course change and we actually did bump him a little bit. Not enough to hurt him at all and we barely felt it. Have you ever encountered any wells as you were leaving the harbor perhaps making it some kind of investigation of the harbor with some of the typical inbred we have. It's very rare but they will make that mistake they did come in here at one time many years ago. We asked Dr. King or Martin just what a whale watch you might expect to see and to describe for us the term spy hopping. He will CEASE FIRE hopping some places more often than you will in other places. For instance you will see spying out and when they strike a head land. People at that point the city. On the northern tip of the promised projects but that's a lot. Right now marine life I have noticed
speaking the biologists here. They really want to get themselves a look out of the water they seem to be looking at the land. And they want to do this alongside of a boat someone course if you've got a brown jug under the sink that you take that you're seeing the original sea monster hunt for a part of the water do they go. They often expose just the head sometimes I doesn't appear to emerge. Other times it definitely does emerge from the water. They may be looking for the very upper levels of the water world like this of course most intense vision at any depth is largely obliterated by power and what else might you see if you were out and you know we'll watching Bove watching for whales. How about the traditional spout of course they have but you see generally first. There she blows and
she blows again. Maybe four times. They'll blow maybe five or six. Then how long can they stay underwater is really a rough rule of thumb myself to stay underwater a minute. For every hour they get at the surface so off they blur about three times or four times you expect them to stay underwater about three four minutes. Sometimes it'll be a lot longer of course when they come to the surface and blow they expose the top of the head and then they expose the back. And I after the last. Blow. They well took the body over rather sharply to gain depth quickly and well first was a tail flukes out of water and a magnificent display. You might say. Family. Or folk. These are swimming fans or flukes when those great big table fans with your heart don't come out of the water three four five six feet. You are seeing a great site that represents
something which. Seems to climax they experience and are we ask them the reports true that this whale was almost extinct some years ago. We say that because numbers were reduced to such a low point. On two occasions. That the animals themselves were knocked over a conspicuous or seen very often. So that we thought that the animal was going. On at least one occasion. And that was sometime between eighteen hundred and ninety five thousand one hundred twenty four. But of course they weren't gone. People just weren't out there looking for those that they had found but there was a lot of very heavy wheeling. Yes the whale has been easily available to whalers. Being so close to shore confining as reproductive activities do closely restricted bodies of water like big title bases and lagoons of Baja
California and San Diego bay by the way was a very famous breeding ground for the great Way off up to the 80s and perhaps as late as early 90s. And as the words were uttered I raised the harpoon above my head took a rapid but no less certain aim and set it hissing deep into his thick white side Stern all for your lives I shouted for at the instant the steel quivered in his body. The wounded Leviathan plunged his head beneath the surface and whirling around with great velocity as smote the sea violently with fin then float in a combustion of rage and pain. Our little boat flew dancing back from the seething vortex around him just in season to escape being overwhelmed to Christ. He now started to run for a short time the lion rasped smoking through the chocks. A few turns round the loggerhead then
secured it and with oars a peek in bows tilted to the sea. We went leaping onward in the wake of the tethered monster. Vain were all his struggles to break from our hold the strands were too strong. The barbed wire into deeply flesh to give way so that whether it was saved to dive or breached or dashed madly forward the pranic creature still felt that he was held in check. At one moment in impotent rage he reared his immense blunt head covered with barnacles high above the surge while his jaws fell together with a crash that almost made me shiver. Then the upper outline of his vast form was dimly seen gliding emits showers of sparkling spray wild streaks of crimson on the white surf that boiled in his crack told that the shaft had been driven home. Of A. Historically they have only the bases and the logo is from San Diego
Bay south. San Diego Bay being out of the picture today. They have a base in the Gulf only and Baja California these. Bays on the go. Generally shallow titled bodies of water which extend way back into the desert regions. Well I can have cats in the open ocean that usually seek out these windows and I was correct. This is one of the most unusual happens among any of the species of whales really doubt about. But we've spoken about the great well-being and in the shore species that can actually swim around a perfectly I'm afraid. You know what I will say tends to. Show where they can scrape the bottom of their belly and kick up a great predator might behind their flocks as they swim as you will notice in the lagoon which have a deep chance of say five six seven fathoms.
Fathom is six feet. But they often get out over the mud flats and they have to get off those mud flats by the way before the tide runs out from under them which they do. Other species of whale has adapted itself to a very clumsily ensure home is there food there that they will go after or do they eat food or leaves with goods. This has been somewhat of a controversial issue this feeding in the winter time. Now most of us believe that they do not feed on migration coming south going back nor nor in the lagoons they do not this is migration for reproductive purposes. They have their budget of energy already they were already in their body that they might take some food occasionally as they run across it is a possibility. People have believed that they have done so no one has actually seen them in the process of swallowing or engulfing
fish in grade schools I know we've seen them swim might break through a middle of a school of anchovies out here right through a barrel of bait you might say sometimes they're Well Chris Cross threw up. Yep all of the gray whales captured along the California coast from the early days until recent times have shown empty stomach empty stomachs. North and South migration. So I think we can say thank God for that. Right now that the great wealth do not feed on migration going that way and it's my experience in the lagoons I've only been in there five times in the lagoons five years in a row and I've spent a number of weeks at least one of these trips and the total amount of time is considerable. I don't think that I've ever seen them in what I thought was the process of feeding. I would say that they range in size at birth would be around 12 to 17 feet.
And I thought I should weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of off hundred pounds were deemed a hundred pounds and I think a 17 foot or a would weigh in the neighborhood of twenty five hundred pounds. But David you don't have to worry about him going through the floor. If you drop them because of water support the way they're going underwater you know was there any possibility since they already are breeding animals I wonder if there's any possibility of their drowning. Yes I think they're us. I think their greatest moment of danger in their life is the moment of birth because they are born under water. Trio is a very interesting thing I noticed many trios of three adult whales are too obviously begat off of one of the smaller perhaps in the mid to work in the lagoon as you're able to determine the sex sometimes two of these individuals by very close observation within whatever of 10 15 20 30 feet which they roll around on the surface of the water
and we think of a third one as another male a compliment a male we call them often it's a smaller individual he seems to have less dominance. He seems to have a less persuasive powers are less physical strength and a dominant male when a female has a calf every other year as we think they do. That means that about half of the females are having their calves each letter in the other half are mating and they reversed their roles each successive year. Each successive winter when of course it takes half of the females out of circulation she spending all of her time with the little guy she is nursing the little guy and she is leaving the little guy up and down those channels and back and forth and here and there interminably until the little guy is ready cording to their little clock inside their brain pick up and start going north with mommy. That half of the females can be mating with at least twice as many eligible males as females and what could be more equable than a
tree I'll do my own thing the female. Public who likes Gammons lagoon has seen quite a lot of scientific observations in recent years the presence of people like yourself put their boats and barges and instruments hours in one off seem to bother the wills that all are or the observers more or less tolerated by these people. I don't think that the scientific party itself. Disturbed the whales unduly. There have been some rather. Vigorous. And disturbing sorts of activities on the part of certain scientific parties down in the guns like firing Grob darts into the way almost firing a small harpoons in them to get leads for electrocardiogram studies sticking as a result.
I don't think that makes the great whales feel any more adjusted there. You mentioned you could get it in 10 or 12 or 13 feet of willfully so guess it must be quite a sensation to have one of these animal surface next to you is there any real danger there. Why has it been for me so far. I have a sort of more than one occasion that the whales have made no threatening gestures or aggressive acts against me and that has been going to happen right over the top of a number of occasions they've gone right under my skin so that I could look over the side and see them going under like a submarine. I might have even put them over the side and which I didn't do. I have intersecting courses with the whales I was travelling in the lagoon with outboard motor and had the flukes come out of the water within a few feet of the shower water over us. Scared a bit Jabbers are some of my passengers who never rode
with me again but I assure them which they didn't believe that I have that there was apparently an intention by part and that we haven't injured anybody yet nor that way. I was down there observing. I was down that I was down there counting while I was down there watching closely and I had just been with them and among them and study them for all the daylight hours. Richard Henry Dana made note of the California gray whale and his two years before the mast. This being the spring season San Pedro as well as all the other open ports upon the coast was filled with whales that had come in to make their annual visit upon soundings for the first few days that we were here and at Santa Barbara. We watched them with great interest calling out. There she blows. Every time we saw the spout of one breaking the surface of the water but they soon became so common that we took little notice of them. They often broke very near us and one thick fog the night during a dead calm. While I was standing anchor watch
one of them rose so near that he struck our cable and made all surge again. He did not seem to like the encounter much himself for he sheared off and spouted at a good distance. We once came very near running one down in the gig and should probably have been knocked to pieces and blown sky high. We had been on board the little Spanish brig and were returning stretching out well at our oars in the little boat going like a swallow. Our backs were forward as is always the case in pulling in the captain who was steering was not looking ahead when all at once we heard the spout of a whale directly ahead. Back water back water for a live shot of the captain and we backed our blades into the water and brought the boat too in a smother of foam. Turning our heads we saw a great rough hump backed whale slowly crossing our fore foot within three or four yards of the boats then when we got back to water just as we did we should inevitably have gone smash upon and striking him with our stem just about amidships. He took no notice of us but passed slowly on and dived a few yards beyond us throwing his tail high in the air. He was so near that
we had a perfect view of him and as may be supposed had no desire to see him nearer. The barnacles get unloaded out of guys in the lagoon. Just the time that the moment after they're born the little larvae of the barnacles are on the other hand you get a little calf. There. And you look very closely over the skin and it will be as smooth as a black one and you look very closely
very closely and you see that tiny little bunny imbedded in the skin with their little feet coming out and searching for food and the calf can't be more than two three weeks from now the great whales have been around for a long long time. Do we have any reasonably accurate estimates of just how far back they go and perhaps more important to our generation about their future. When I go back a long way we can get rid of that part of the question right now. This is a right unique species of whale and we know we've been on this earth for a good many millions of years and the future of course is in the in the lap or the hands of the public. And whatever conservation forces and groups that we have that are active and powerful We're going to have to keep a large nucleus of the great where I live.
We're going to have to keep them here from the middle part of. Our natural environment so that people from now on out can enjoy them. The story of the great gray whale. We've been talking to Dr Raymond M. Gilmore research associate marine mammals San Diego Museum of Natural History. Down to the sea is a production of public radio station at San Diego State College. Music for the series was arranged and performed by Sam Hinton. Narrative passages were read by Cliff Kirk. Written and produced by your host Tom McManus with the assistance of Ken Kramer. These programs were made possible in part by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
This is the national educational radio network.
Down to the sea
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The Great Grey WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)les
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Chicago: “Down to the sea; 3; The Great Grey WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)les,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 20, 2024,
MLA: “Down to the sea; 3; The Great Grey WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)les.” 1971-00-00. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 20, 2024. <>.
APA: Down to the sea; 3; The Great Grey WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)les. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from