Catching sight of a whale is one of the most magical events for human beings. You might see them breaching—that is, breaking up through the ocean’s surface and crashing down again. Or you may see their flukes, or tails, lifting up and disappearing again as they dive. Or they might blast a spout of water out of their blow holes—a good way of spotting them in the distance.
If you’re here in August, the whale you may see could be a humpback or a blue. They come to the waters of Monterey Bay to feed on small fish and krill, ingesting up to one ton of food in a single day. As fall approaches, they begin moving south, to their breeding grounds in the tropical waters of Hawaii and Mexico.
If you’re here in late fall or early spring, there is a good chance you’ll see a Pacific gray whale. They pass by our shores in November on their twelve thousand mile roundtrip from the Chukchi Sea near Alaska to Baja California and back—one of the longest annual migrations of any mammal. They come into Monterey Bay to feed in both directions of their journey.
The Pacific gray whale was nearly hunted to extinction in the mid-1800s. Today, thousands of these gentle giants pass through Monterey Bay every year.