By Jack Penland
The gray whale migration is the longest migration of any mammal and some of it happens right here in Puget Sound.
Each year they travel about 12,000 miles in their round trip between the Gulf of Mexico and the Bearing Sea off Alaska. They winter in Mexico and give birth to calves but head north to Alaska each summer to feed.
But, on their way from Mexico to Alaska, roughly a dozen gray whales, referred to by some as the “Sounders” stop off in Puget Sound for a springtime break.
The shallow mud flats around Whidbey and Camano islands are ideal for ghost shrimp and gray whales will suck up large amounts of water and use their baleen to strain the water for the shrimp.
Because they’re so close to shore, beach walkers are often treated to the amazing sight (and sound) of whales feeding just a few yards away.
It’s always hard to predict nature, but usually these whales spend approximately March to May around here.
It Started in the 1990's
The first gray whales were sighted in the early 1990’s and a second wave showed up in 1999-2000. Many have become well-known around here and have names like, “Patch,” “Little Patch,” and “Shackelton.” Regular whale watchers can easily distinguish individual whales from one another because of the distinctive markings each one has.
They, of course, join the orca and even humpback whales in Puget Sound.
Deception Pass Jet Boat Tours offer whale-watching trips throughout the tour season but offer special tours for the gray whales in April.