DEPOE BAY, Ore. — The Oregon Chapter of the American Cetacean Society is hosting a whale watching and wildlife viewing party this weekend in Depoe Bay.
Marine biologists say Depoe Bay is one of the best places in the world to see gray whales in the wild, and summer is the prime time to view them since they’re in closer to the shore.
Every year nearly 20,000 gray whales travel from Baja California to Alaska and back, but about 200 of them stay right here, taking up a summer residence along the Northwest coast to feed.
“What’s so cool for people is they can be standing on the sidewalk in Depoe Bay and look down into the blowholes of a gray whale,” said Marine Biologist and Whale Expert Carrie Newell.
Newell has been studying and teaching about these whales for more than 20 years. She knows them so well, she’s even named them.
“Same ones come back year after year, and they’re kind of like my family,” Newell said.
Newell and her first mate, her dog Kida, give daily tours in the summer.
Those who went out with her Thursday experienced a rare occurrence; two of the gray whales were mating in the summer.
“(It’s) extremely rare. In over 20 years working with whales, I have never seen whales courting in July,” Newell said.
“To have them come up and so close to the boat and to see all of their activity I thought was really neat, and we saw a really neat tail fluke,” said Alisa Grover.
The 40- to 45-foot long whales can easily be spotted while they’re in Depoe Bay in the summer. The first thing to look for is the blow.
“That exhale goes six to 12 feet tall, and then the back, and dorsal hump, knuckles and hopefully the tail fluke,” Newell said.
You don’t want to blink though. The whales only breach a few seconds at a time, then dive back down to feed.
For those looking to gain a little more marine knowledge, Carrie recently opened up the Whale, Sealife and Shark Museum in Depoe Bay, offering a hands-on learning experience for all ages.
The land based whale watching and wildlife viewing event this weekend is free to the public. If you want to check it out, naturalists will be at Boiler Bay State Park from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday to answer any questions.