Oregon's Whale Expert

Morris Grover teaches visitors about whale watching in Depoe Bay.

Morris Grover at Depoe Bay, Ore.

Morris Grover runs Depoe Bay’s Whale Watching Center.

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Morris Grover knows a breach from a spy hop. A state park ranger and director of the Whale Watching Spoken Here program in Depoe Bay, Ore., he helps visitors spot the telltale fins, flukes, and sprays of migrating gray whales. (541) 765-3304, www.whalespoken.org.

Q The best time to look for whales?
A We see them every month of the year. The peak time for whales going south is between Christmas and New Year's. Then in the last week of March, they head back north. During spring whale-watching week [March 21–28], we have volunteers on hand to answer questions here and at 25 other Oregon sites.

Q Why watch for whales?
A They're some of the largest things to have ever lived on earth and we get to see them right in our backyard.

Q Where are they going?
A They migrate between the Arctic and Baja—6,000 miles each way. About 18,000 gray whales pass by Oregon every year.

Q Why do they migrate?
A They have to come up to breathe, and when the Arctic freezes, it's all ice. Plus, the babies are born with no insulation. They do it to survive.

Q Their daily activities?
A It's all about food. Each whale eats 2,000 pounds a day of tiny shrimp the size of mosquitoes.

Q Can you tell the whales apart?
A They might be silver or black or mottled or smooth. One this year has a volleyball-size spot; we call her Wilson.

Q Any common misconceptions?
A People think whales blow water out their blowholes. But those are their noses; they're exhaling air at 200 mph out of lungs the size of VW Beetles.

Q Do whales ever have fun?
A After lunch, they jump and slap their tails on the water.

Photography by Don Frank

This article was first published in March 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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