Here She Blows!

An experience with gray whales could be closer — and smellier — than you might imagine

“How close?” I asked. “Close enough to smell their breath!” came the excited reply. Skeptical, I nonetheless wanted to see — er, smell — for myself. Which I promptly did, and finding the situation precisely as advertised, am happy now to report, without any doubt whatsoever, that whales do indeed have horrible breath.

For further verification, just ask former Oregon Coast Refuge Manager Roy W. Lowe, pictured in the video enjoying a “day off” at Yaquina Head that would have made Ferris Bueller blush green with envy — albeit while holding his nose.

Like many creatures in the wild, whales follow food, and sometimes during summer months at Yaquina Head, their food comes very close to shore, offering lucky visitors an opportunity of a lifetime to love a leviathan, up close and personal. At certain places and times, you’ll find them almost underfoot.

The opportunity to observe whales at such close range is truly eye opening. I never imagined, for instance, that an animal the length of a school bus could be as flexible as a trout, and sometimes feed in shallow spaces that even a trout might find tight. But sure enough, they are and they do. Seeing is believing.

Note the ring of bubbles blown by the whale next to the rock outcropping, and then let me know definitively what that whale is feeding on, and how the bubbles help in this endeavor. I’ll add your report to the numerous theories that have been proffered to date, with various additional theories emerging as to which is correct. That so many folks are so sure about differing theories suggests to me that, in all probability, only the whales know for sure. But there’s no doubt in my mind about one thing:

Any day that brings me a chance to savor a whale’s bad breath, is a great day on Nature’s Coast.


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