A Sad Gray Whale of a Tail

Despite the foulness riding the breeze from the south, curiosity kept us moving forward. We knew we had to be close to our target.

Our Discovery

We’re into our second year of volunteering to survey Toleak Beach for the COASST program. Some surveys turn out to be more interesting then others and this particular survey was going to be the biggest in terms of size…like 30’ of Gray Whale big!

Of course, we had no way of knowing that when we struck out on the trail. All indicators suggested that this was going to be routine. But once we hit the beach we started having hikers report the Gray Whale on the high tide line near Strawberry Point.

Our survey zone actually stops just before the point and we were debating just how far we wanted to commit to hiking beyond it. Remember, we have to hike back over and up Scotts Bluff. But as we neared the southern end of our zone we could actually smell the decay on the breeze. We decided to press on and see what we could find.

Wasn’t long before we came upon the source. This whale was in an advanced state of decomposition. I’d paced off its length as approximately 30’ but of course, there was no way to tell how much it weight when it first washed up onshore.

I’m sure this calorie-rich carcass was visited by many various scavengers when it first arrived but the only feeders that we saw currently were some maggots. There were already some bones visible in the flippers so I imagine it had been there on the beach awhile. It will be interesting to see how long the decomposition process takes over the next few months.

Gray Whales

Gray Whales are baleen whales that can reach a length of 50’ and weight as much as 36 tonnes. Living between 55 and 70 years they migrate annually up and down the west coast of North America covering 10,000 miles, the longest of any whale on Earth.

In the early summer, the whales arrive in the Arctic where they feed on small, bottom-dwelling shrimp-like creatures called amphipods. They usually stay in the north for months, bulking up for the long journey ahead of them. Once they leave the waters of the Arctic, they won’t eat again until they return. In December, the whales begin swimming south toward the coast of Mexico, where they breed and give birth.

Usually arriving in mid-February, the warm lagoons of Baja California provide protected areas for the whales to give birth. By March, the creatures start heading back up the coast, mothers with nursing calves in tow, toward the food-rich waters of the north.

 

Despite the foulness riding the breeze from the south, curiosity kept us moving forward. We knew we had to be close to our target.

Despite the foulness riding the breeze from the south, curiosity kept us moving forward. We knew we had to be close to our target.

The northward spring migration is when gray whales are at their most vulnerable. The animals have gone months since their last meal and new mothers expend a lot of energy tending to and nursing their young, who can consume up to 50 gallons a day of their mother’s milk.

The trip is always a risky endeavor but this year has been especially perilous for these cetaceans.

As of me writing this, there have been 29 Gray Whales washed up on Washington’s coast alone. If you included Canada and Mexico there have been 160 whales washed up. The whales that have washed up this year are emaciated, and scientists have also noted that whales migrating north are showing up in places they wouldn’t normally venture, such as the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, or San Francisco Bay. That leads researchers to wonder if the gigantic mammals are veering off course in a desperate bid to find food far south of where they usually fatten up in the late summer months.

U.S. scientists last month declared the die-off an “unusual mortality event,” a designation that triggered additional resources to respond to the deaths and launch an investigation.

Member of the following

We are the learned society for geography and geographers.
as-seal-gr
Working to provide opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to make a difference as they play in the outdoors.
coasst-logo
Working to translate long-term monitoring into effective marine conservation solutions.
Sea Grant Washington
Provide integrated research, communication, and education to coastal communities that lead to the responsible use of the nation’s oceans.

advertisement

Latest Instagram

Will be heading back to the land of the Midnight Sun in 24 hours to help support a team of Alaska Volcano Observatory scientist in the field. Here's a close up Iliamna and one of her glaciers.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #Alaska #alaskanmalamute #alaskan #alaskalife #alaskanhusky #alaskankleekai #AlaskaAirlines #alaskanmalamutesofinstagram #alaskaki #alaskathunderfuck #alaskanadventures #alaskagrown #alaskanmalamutes #alaskabarbershop #alaskamalamute #alaskaair #alaskahusky #alaskalove #alaskaphotographer #alaskanmalamutepuppy #alaskacruise #alaskaday #alaskahighway #alaskanmalamuteindonesia #alaskanmalamuteofinstagram #alaskascenery #alaska5000 #alaskasummer #alaskatlf #alaskarange ...

0 10

Looking forward to getting back out to the Olympic Peninsula this fall for the change of colors and cool fresh air! ⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #pnwonderland #pnw #thenwadventure #upperleftusa #pnwdiscovered #cascadiaexplored #pnwparadise #optoutside #wildernessculture #wanderwashington #pacificnorthwest #pnwlife #nature #keepitwild #pnwphotographer #lifeofadventure #exploretocreate #beautifuldestinations #hikingadventures #wanderlust #thatpnwlife #explorewashington #roamtheplanet #thegreatpnw #photooftheday #washingtonexplored @washingtondiscovered @nextstop24 #nextstop24traveler #WildOlympics ...

0 7

The Saw-tooth Ridge in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Days like this are just magical.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #pnwonderland #pnw #thenwadventure #upperleftusa #pnwdiscovered #cascadiaexplored #pnwparadise #optoutside #wildernessculture #wanderwashington #pacificnorthwest #pnwlife #nature #keepitwild #pnwphotographer #lifeofadventure #exploretocreate #beautifuldestinations #hikingadventures #wanderlust #thatpnwlife #explorewashington #roamtheplanet #thegreatpnw #photooftheday #washingtonexplored @washingtondiscovered @nextstop24 #nextstop24traveler ...

0 1

Here's a closeup of the High Rock Lookout. Built in 1930 this lookout sits above a 600' straight drop to the floor below. It's been closed for years, but can still be used as a shelter to hikers in the area.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #pnwonderland #pnw #thenwadventure #upperleftusa #pnwdiscovered #cascadiaexplored #pnwparadise #optoutside #wildernessculture #wanderwashington #pacificnorthwest #pnwlife #nature #keepitwild #pnwphotographer #lifeofadventure #exploretocreate #beautifuldestinations #hikingadventures #wanderlust #thatpnwlife #explorewashington #roamtheplanet #thegreatpnw #photooftheday #washingtonexplored @washingtondiscovered @nextstop24 #nextstop24traveler ...

0 4

Looking down 2000' into the valley and Cora Lake from atop High Rock just below the lookout. We had incredible weather for this shot. Things rarely work out so perfectly. ⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #pnwonderland #pnw #thenwadventure #upperleftusa #pnwdiscovered #cascadiaexplored #pnwparadise #optoutside #wildernessculture #wanderwashington #pacificnorthwest #pnwlife #nature #keepitwild #pnwphotographer #lifeofadventure #exploretocreate #beautifuldestinations #hikingadventures #wanderlust #thatpnwlife #explorewashington #roamtheplanet #thegreatpnw #photooftheday #washingtonexplored @washingtondiscovered @nextstop24 #nextstop24traveler ...

0 2

Made the hike up to High Rock Lookout. Incredible views all around including straight down! Mt. Rainier in the background. ⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #getlost #discoverearth #optoutside #igtravel #instapassport #exploretocreate #earthofficial #instatraveling #travelphoto #ourplanetdaily #travelworld #mytravelgram #theglobewanderer #natgeo #keepexploring #explorer #places_wow #globe_travel #agameoftones #roamtheplanet #nakedplanet #earthfocus #worldtravelpics #sharetravelpics #keepitwild #landscapes #landscapephotography #createexplore #travelingram #ig_masterpiece ...

0 2

We found the perfect Hipcamp situated between Mt. Rainier National Park and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Three days of bliss! #explore #pnw #pnwdiscovered #cascadiaexplored #nature #pacificnorthwest #optoutside #adventure #wanderlust #getoutside #northwestisbest ...

0 1

Here's the latest on our website | "Three Children Go Missing Near Carbonado" https://buff.ly/32T33zJ ...

0 0

This was some time back, but taking a break with @kayakthecoast on Lummi Rocks during a paddle of the San Juan Islands.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #seattle #upperleftusa #pnwonderland #wine #sommelier #bellevue #ocean #edmonds #bellingham #pnw #travel #washingtonstate #pacificnorthwest #orcasisland #rocheharbor #explore #fridayharbor #nature #tacoma #wildernessculture #sanjuanislands #anacortes #visitsanjuans #sanjuanisland #northwest #sunset #washington #orcas #eastsound #rosario ...

0 10

After our beach survey for #COASST we had lunch sitting in the shade of a massive root ball. Doe and her fawn come strolling around the corner to joins us. ⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #pnw #washington #washingtonstate #pacificnorthwest #pnwonderland #nature #optoutside #washingtonexplored #science #upperleftusa #olympicpeninsula #beach #cascadiaexplored #wildlife #explorewashington #conservation #pnwlife #washingtonweed #wacoast #washingtonstatefair #naturephotography #washingtonnationals #washingtontrails #wander #hiking #olympicnationalpark @washingtondiscovered #WildOlympics @nextstop24 #nextstop24traveler ...

0 4

Heading back out to the Olympic National Park this weekend to conduct our July #COASST beach survey. Weather looks promising and I'll be curious to check on the condition of our Gray Whale. ⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #pnw #washington #washingtonstate #pacificnorthwest #pnwonderland #nature #optoutside #washingtonexplored #science #upperleftusa #olympicpeninsula #beach #cascadiaexplored #wildlife #explorewashington #conservation #pnwlife #washingtonweed #wacoast #washingtonstatefair #naturephotography #washingtonnationals #washingtontrails #wander #hiking #olympicnationalpark @washingtondiscovered #WildOlympics @nextstop24 #nextstop24traveler ...

0 0

Here's my latest news article regarding the world of citizen-science | "A Sad Gray Whale of a Tail" https://buff.ly/2LrCP1P ...

0 18

A crumbling wall of what once was a thriving coal community named Melmont deep in the Carbon River Canyon. Only a handful of structures are visible now.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #pnwonderland #pnw #thenwadventure #upperleftusa #pnwdiscovered #cascadiaexplored #pnwparadise #optoutside #wildernessculture #wanderwashington #pacificnorthwest #pnwlife #nature #keepitwild #pnwphotographer #lifeofadventure #exploretocreate #beautifuldestinations #hikingadventures #wanderlust #thatpnwlife #explorewashington #roamtheplanet #thegreatpnw #photooftheday #washingtonexplored @washingtondiscovered @nextstop24 #nextstop24traveler ...

0 2

Making our way up the Carbon River banks toward the Melton Ghost Town. We had such good weather for exploring this area. We'll defiantly be back from more discoveries. ⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #pnwonderland #pnw #thenwadventure #upperleftusa #pnwdiscovered #cascadiaexplored #pnwparadise #optoutside #wildernessculture #wanderwashington #pacificnorthwest #pnwlife #nature #keepitwild #pnwphotographer #lifeofadventure #exploretocreate #beautifuldestinations #hikingadventures #wanderlust #thatpnwlife #explorewashington #roamtheplanet #thegreatpnw #photooftheday #washingtonexplored @washingtondiscovered @nextstop24 #nextstop24traveler ...

0 0

Yesterday our plans for hiking out on the Melton Ghost Trail were interrupted when we helped a family search for 3 missing children from their party. Located the kids but had to scrub the hike. We’ll try again. .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #pnwonderland #pnw #thenwadventure #upperleftusa #pnwdiscovered #cascadiaexplored #pnwparadise #optoutside #wildernessculture #wanderwashington #pacificnorthwest #pnwlife #nature #keepitwild #pnwphotographer #lifeofadventure #exploretocreate #beautifuldestinations #hikingadventures #wanderlust #thatpnwlife #explorewashington #roamtheplanet #thegreatpnw #photooftheday #washingtonexplored @washingtondiscovered @nextstop24 #nextstop24traveler ...

0 2

Camping on the banks of the Carbon River this weekend. Tonight we’re off to find the ghost town of Melmont. ⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #pnwonderland #pnw #thenwadventure #upperleftusa #pnwdiscovered #cascadiaexplored #pnwparadise #optoutside #wildernessculture #wanderwashington #pacificnorthwest #pnwlife #nature #keepitwild #pnwphotographer #lifeofadventure #exploretocreate #beautifuldestinations #hikingadventures #wanderlust #thatpnwlife #explorewashington #roamtheplanet #thegreatpnw #photooftheday #washingtonexplored @washingtondiscovered @nextstop24 #nextstop24traveler ...

0 6

UME (Unusual Mortality Event)

Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, an unusual mortality event (UME) is defined as “a stranding that is unexpected; involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demands an immediate response.”

Understanding and investigating marine mammal UMEs is crucial because they can be indicators of ocean health, giving insight into larger environmental issues which may also have implications for human health. To fill this role, NOAA Fisheries established the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events in 1991. The working group was formalized in 1992 with amendments to the MMPA amendments.

The working group members are comprised of experts from scientific and academic institutions, conservation organizations, state and federal agencies who work closely with stranding networks and have a wide variety of experience in biology, toxicology, pathology, ecology, and epidemiology. Core members are appointed for three-year terms and have voting privileges. International participants and federal government representatives contribute significantly throughout the UME investigations but do not have voting rights.

A UME is determined to be “unusual” by the working group if it meets one or more of the seven criteria. All possible information is reviewed and, within 24 hours of the initial consultation, it is decided whether an event is considered a UME. The Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Event Contingency Fund is used to help the marine mammal stranding network investigate and respond to UMEs.

We’ll be heading back this month for our July survey and plan to revisit the carcass. I’ll post here what we find.

Rock Art
Local rock art on First Beach in La Push. I guess the object is to see how many layers you can add.
Please share this:

More to explore

Science

First Beach Cast Bird Found

I really don’t want to think about the number of miles or the total elevation lost and gained that were traveled to find our first bird but it finally paid off with the discovery of our first bird (and second) to document for the volunteer COASST program.

Read More »

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

×
×

Cart