The Gray whale migration is on! They are travelling from the warm waters of Mexico and heading to the food rich waters of the Bering Sea! Consider this migration route like a huge highway. When some of them pass Tofino they ramp off and spend the summer here! In the fall time they will get back on that marine highway and head back south where the females will give birth.
A rather large pod of Gray’s has arrived in Tofino. Maybe 12 plus. I first saw them a few days ago.
Our Hospital is located near the water. I was heading home on my bike when I heard singing and drumming. It was a Native man singing and drumming a traditional song to someone he knows sick inside the Hospital. Magically I noticed a pod of Gray whales behind him in the waters spouting! I decided to put my boat in the water to go check them out. Because the whale watching boats have been side lined I knew I would be able to get some great shots….which I did!
This one female for whatever reason must of Spy Hopped 6 or 7 times!
Barnacles attache themselves to a Gray whale in the warm waters in Mexico. Once attached they will stay attached for life. (which is about a year for this species of barnacle) They do not harm the whale,but they do make their skin a patchy colouring. They basically use the whale like a taxi,all the while feeding upon plankton. Whales do rub themselves upon sandy beaches (which is what I observed) to rid themselves of barnacles but many are rubbed off when they feed anyways.
A Gray whale will go down to the bottom and turn on its side. It will swallow a mouthful of muddy bottom and filter it with their baleen. Baleen look like a big broom. It stops the food from escaping.
A Gray whale will live between 55 and 70 years. It grows to 40 feet and can weigh in at 40 tons.
This is a Gray whale. There are many very close to Tofino right now. Whales migrate from the warm waters of Mexico to the cold waters of the Bering Sea in the Spring. Far more food up in the colder waters!
This female seemed to like Spy Hopping to check me out!
While I was with Romeo,I noticed a skiff south of me.It wasn’t moving?I wondered if it had motor trouble but also wondered if there was a whale around? I finished with Romeo.The sun had set & so the light was gone. I headed back to First St dock.That skiff was still there but moving slowly.Thats when I saw the “blow”! It was a Gray whale! I knew instantly that I could only take silhouettes as the sun had already set.If I had known it was a whale I would of left Romeo sooner & come over. Ahhh hindsight………….!
The only shot angle I had was looking NW.I had to line up the whale with the last light of the day.Which placed me right near the dock.For whatever reason the whale surprised everyone & actually came over to the dock! Giving the tourists a excellent vantage point (better than mine)! My cameras exposure was set on “manual” as it always is. So when the Gray came up behind me suddenly I had no time to change my exposure! The shot was under exposed but I managed to bring it back enough to get a half decent shot.
Gray whales are a beautiful creature to be sure but photographically poor.They almost always stay low in the water & rarely breach.(jump out of the water)
A nice ending to my evening shoot none the less!
UPDATE: April 12th/13 – Three days after I shot this, a company specializing in retrieving skeletons moved in & took the bones! They will be cleaned (by Nature) & reassembled for public viewing in the large museum in Victoria!
They found it was a 2 yr old female Humpback.
I heard from a friend that a Grey was out in Cox bay and decided to check it out.
I went out and found not one but two Greys. Only one of them came by to say hi however!
You never see much of these guys. The only way your going to get some great shots of a whale is if they come over to check you out or it’s a Humpback and it’s either jumping or Lunge Feeding! Orca’s would be fantastic ,but they are very rare. (for me)
If I was going out on a Whale watching boat everyday,I would get something sooner or later. Photography is all about being at the right spot,at the right time,with the right equipment!
This particular whale is over a kilometer away from me. The land is Frank Island and you can see someone walking out to it,oblivious to the Grey not far away from them.
(and no,thats not a rock)
Greys can weigh up to 40 tonnes and a baby is born 3-4 meters or13 feet. Thats a big baby! They nurse on the Mothers milk which has a fat content of 45% !
That sure isn’t 2% ! Talk about rich milk!
You can clearly see how he was starting to exhale while still under the water. It made a bubble!
Greys can grow up to 16m or 52 feet length. The population is around 20,000-22,000 along the west coast here. There is a smaller population off of the Japaneses coast,but there are not too many. I think they have been hunted in the past too much!
You can see someone walking along the sand between Frank island and Chesterman’s beach.
Many times during the migration Greys will hang around for the summer/fall.