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