spring, some 20,000 Gray Whales (Eschschrictius robustus) move past
the western shore of Vancouver Island, en route to summer feeding
grounds in the Bering Sea.
The 30 ton
giants can be seen from shore, as early as February, with females
and calves passing in April and early May. They return by the same
route in the fall, to their calving and wintering areas in the lagoons
of Baja California.
belong to the family known as baleen whales, which feed by straining
huge mouths full of sea-bottom mud through filter-like baleen plates.
Tiny marine organisms are thus captured by the baleen, and then
swallowed by the whale. These large and slow animals are often encrusted
with barnacles and other marine life, visible when they surface.
were almost hunted to extinction in the early 1900's, but have recovered
well since their hunting was banned in 1947. Whale watching expeditions
are available from the west coast of Vancouver Island.