NEWPORT – If you love whales, enjoy meeting people and don’t mind spending some time outdoors on a blustery winter day, Oregon’s winter Whale Watch Week wants you.
Volunteers are being sought for training as interpreters and whale-spotting guides at state parks up and down the Oregon coast for the annual event, which takes place this year from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1.
Gray whales can be seen off the Oregon coast year-round, but their numbers peak during their twice-yearly migrations between feeding grounds in Alaska’s Bering Sea and calving lagoons in Baja California. The full round trip is more than 10,000 miles (16,000 km), the longest known migration for any mammal.
During the peak of the southward migration each winter, as many as 30 whales an hour can be seen off coastal headlands and viewing areas. Gray whales can grow to 40 feet long and 70,000 pounds, and their migrations often bring them close enough to the coast to be spotted by the naked eye, if you know what to look for.
Whale Watch Weeks, started in the late 1970s by Oregon Sea Grant educators at the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center, has grown to a twice-yearly program administered by Oregon State Parks from its Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay. During the winter and spring weeks, as many as 450 trained volunteers take turns at two dozen of the most popular coastal whale-watch sites, helping visitors spot whales and teaching them about the lives and habits of these giant marine mammals.
Volunteer training for Winter Whale Watch Week will take place on Sat., Dec. 10 at the HMSC Visitor Center in Newport. Dr. Bruce Mate, OSU marine mammal specialist, will preside. Additional training sessions for Spring Whale Watch Week will take place in January and February.
- Learn more and sign up for volunteer training at WhaleSpoken.org, the Oregon State Parks whale-watching site.
- Download the popular Sea Grant brochure, Gray Whales,
- See more marine mammal photos at the NOAA Photo Library on Flickr