Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Lost Whale

The night before we left everybody at the EPS grad student camping trip last weekend, one of the new grad students told us about a whale that swum inland, from the Pacific Ocean up the Klamath River, and was just hanging out under the Hwy 101 bridge. Although it was out of the way, since the Klamath River is farther north than we already were by Trinity Lake, we thought it was totally worth going to see a whale before heading home on Sunday! I never saw a whale in real life before.We hoped it would still be there. The Klamath is also in Redwood National/State Park, so we were able to take a detour through the park on the way to the bridge over the river. We saw huge redwoods, and there was little to no fog along the coast so it was warm. The last time we were there in the park with the bus was in 2007, the year before we moved, so driving along north through Redwood was almost like a bus-redwood reunion!

A video of the whale surfacing for air.

I was really excited to see the whale. It took us about two hours of driving to get to where it was. As we got near the bridge, we were really hoping that the whale would still be there, since it had already been swimming in the river for about a month. When the bridge was in view, we saw some orange cones and a scrolling sign that said, "Caution, people on bridge." As we drove over the bridge to get to some parking on the other side, we saw tons of people gawking over the side of the bridge and down into the river. Yay! That meant the whale was still there! After we parked, we literally ran back onto the bridge and got a good spot for the whale watching. The whale was just swimming back and forth under the bridge, as if it was parading for us to see.

Another video of the whale and the Klamath River.

The river was very shallow, so the whale was really visible and it came up for air often. After half an hour of parading under the bridge, it started swimming farther upstream, then stopped, still in view. At that point, a seal started swimming around, and it was munching on some fish it caught. The whale never came back towards the bridge again, but we waited anyways for another half hour. Then we decided it would be a good idea to head back home, since it was already about 4pm and we were very far north still (almost at the Oregon border).

Klamath River Whale
The Klamath River whale, as seen from the bridge.

Apparently, the whale swam up the river with her baby in late June. The mother whale stayed in the river, but the baby ended up swimming back out to sea a month later. Today, I just read online, it beached itself on a sandbar and sadly, died. The scientists studying it don't know what the cause of death is, but they are doing an autopsy. It might of been sick before swimming into the river, or it might of got sick while in the river. It will be buried on the banks of the river, and the whale bones will belong to the Indian tribe, whose land surrounds the Klamath River. While it was alive, people have been coming to the bridge to watch it every day and night, and some people even played music for it (hippies), and some people swam with the whale (crazy hippies)!

Klamath River Whale
People watching the whale as it swims under the bridge.


Unknown said...

Wow, Jenn... I'm going to share this with some of the Science teachers in my school to see if they have heard of this! It is really interesting! You have some great adventures... Take Care!