Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On a Whale Goose Chase

On Saturday, my boys and I went on an adventure to find a beached grey whale. As large as those grey whales are, it turns out they can be hard to track!

Gray whale - Eschrichtius robustus - at Scammo...Image via Wikipedia

The grey whale has been languishing in the shallows of Puget Sound around my neighborhood for the past few weeks. Both Thursday and Friday morning, it was found beached with a significant portion of it above the waterline during low tide. People were keeping it wet with buckets of water until the tide could take it back out so we thought we might try to help.

Of course, whales are unpredictable and he ended up in Tulalip Bay which was farther north than we had expected and not an area I know well. We drove around (and around), eventually found Mission Beach, but left when we couldn't find the whale. The good news is that while he was stuck in the bay, he was apparently mostly submerged, which was why we couldn't find him.

Today's update is that the whale is still in the area, but has been seen with orcas recently. Some say the orcas were attacking it, others say they were helping it stay underwater. It's hard to say, but I do know that the Southern Resident orcas that would typically be found in Puget Sound only eat fish, so I would be surprised if they were attacking it.

A whale that has beached itself repeatedly is generally not expected to live, so I don't expect a good outcome, but it's been an interesting story to follow. Several grey whales have died in Puget Sound this year, and it's believed that they generally come so far in to Puget Sound because they are starving after a poor feeding season last year. Grey whales migrate from the Arctic to the southern waters of California and Mexico each fall, but they typically do most of their feeding in the Arctic. We're on the end of their long trip and if they didn't get enough to eat before the migration, they can run into trouble in our area.

We're hoping for the best, but we'll wait and see how nature takes its course...
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