The MMT Blog / Wildlife Spotlight: Meet the Gray Whale, the “Friendly” Whale
At this very moment, tens of thousands of gray whales are on their annual migration north from Baja to the Bering and Chukchi seas. These magnificent mammals travel 5,000 miles over the course of 2-3 months in one of the longest migration routes of any mammal. From late-March to early May, you can witness the gray whale cruising through Alaska waters in their long journey north on a Gray Whale Watching Cruise with Major Marine Tours.
Gray whales spend the winter months in the warm waters off the coast of Baja, giving birth to their calves in the area’s protected lagoons. In February, they embark on their journey north, traveling along the coastline of the western United States and Canada on their way up to the Bering and Chucki Seas. They spend the summer and fall feeding in the nutrient-rich Arctic waters, passing by the opening of Resurrection Bay outside of Seward in April and May. In mid-October they embark on the journey all over again, heading 5,000 miles back to warmer waters for the winter.
The Friendly Giant
Gray whales are known to be very curious and inquisitive, giving them reputation of being the “friendly” whale. They often swim right up to boats and poke their heads vertically out of the water to get a better view of their surroundings in a behavior called spyhopping. Gray whales are similar in size to humpback whales, with adult gray whales weighing between 16 and 45 tons and reaching 36-50 feet in length.
Unique Feeding Habits
Gray whales are baleen whales. Instead if teeth, they have fringed plates made of keratin (the same material as your fingernails) that are used to filter small crustaceans from the water. They are the only bottom-feeding baleen whales, swimming along the seafloor on their sides and using their noses to churn up the sediment on the bottom of the ocean.
Saved from the Brink
In the early 20th century, the gray whale was on the verge of extinction due to over-hunting. During that time, it is estimated that their population numbers dipped below 2,000 whales. Thanks to conservation efforts and protection by international law, the gray whale population has recovered dramatically. They were taken off the endangered species list in 1994 and have a current thriving population between 19,000 and 23,000.
Witness the Migration
Join Major Marine Tours on a Gray Whale Watching Cruise to search for these magnificent mammals as they migrate through Alaskan waters. Our cruise travels 55 miles round trip from the Seward boat harbor to the opening of Resurrection Bay. In addition to gray whales, you may also see humpback whales, orca whales, otters, harbor seals, and seabirds. The cruise departs and noon and returns at 4:00, March 28th – April 5th weekends and April 10th – May 17th daily. Prices are $84 per adult and $42 per child. Call us at (907) 274-7300 or book online for your opportunity to witness part of this incredible annual migration.