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Whales

One of the most profound experiences a visitor to the Big Sur can hope for is the sighting of whales off the coast. Just the sight of spouts can raise goosebumps, but to see them emerge dramatically from their world into ours--breaching the calm blue surface with a titanic splash--has the ability to stop time altogether and render the lucky viewer speechless with awe. Patience is the only requirement. Binoculars are nice too. Three whales species are commonly seen off the South Coast.

GRAY WHALES

The world's entire population of gray whales (approximately 23,000 individuals) migrates past the Big Sur coastline twice a year. From December to February they're heading south to their calving and breeding grounds in the warm bays of Baja Mexico. On this journey they are somewhat further out from shore. From February to April they return to the north, traveling closer to shore so the new mothers can better protect their young from predating killer whales and sharks. There is some overlap, so don't be surprised to see some headed north and some south at the same time.

The gray whale is a baleen whale about forty-five feet in length. In color they are gray with white patches. They have no dorsal (back) fin. A low hump and a series of 6-12 knuckles or bumps on the back can be seen when they surface. Newborns are 12-15 feet long and weigh 1,500 lbs. They are weaned at eight months.

BLUE WHALES

The blue whale is the largest animal inhabiting the earth. They are from 70 to 90 feet long and can weigh from 100 to 150 tons. Their heart is the size of a small car!

They can be spotted off the Big Sur coast from June to October, especially during times of abundant krill.

They are an overall blue-gray color, mottled with light gray. Their bellies can be yellow, from ocean-going diatoms. In shape they're long and streamlined. The dorsal fin is very small and the pectoral flippers are long and thin. The blue whale is also a baleen whale.


HUMPBACK WHALES

This whale is extremely endangered in all its ocean habitats. The central coast population (about 800 individuals) migrates from their winter calving and mating grounds off Mexico to areas off coastal California where they feed in the summer and fall. They can be seen from late April to early December.

Humpbacks are approximately 50-55 feet long with long pectoral flippers. They are the most animated whale, often seen breaching, skyhopping, pectoral fin slapping, lunge feeding and tail lobbing.

At the juntion of Highway One and Partington Ridge is a deep submarine canyon offshore. Humpbacks frequent this area regularly to feed and can often be spotted there.

 

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