We had a wonderful time during our three-day holiday at Yachats on the Central Oregon coast. A pod of gray whales stays offshore year-round. On a good day you can see their spouts just beyond the surf. Conditions have to be right. If there’s too much wind and the water is choppy, their spouts are hard to see among the white-capped waves.
This time conditions were perfect. I sat down on a rock, looked out to see, and raised my binoculars when I saw a spout. That was about every fifteen minutes or less. The whales really put on a show! They showed their flukes when they began a deep dive. They lay on their sides and waved their flippers. On a couple of occasions I saw whales spy-hop. Spy-hopping is when a whale lifts its head out of the water and has a look around. No one really knows why they do this.
I asked one of the rangers at Cape Perpetua about it last year. She said that, according to one theory, whales look around the check the coastline to see where they are. That’s astonishing to think about. It means whales have memorized the Pacific coastline of North America from Baja California to Alaska. That’s how human beings went on long voyages throughout most of history. They followed the landmarks along the shore.
Does this mean that whales are as smart as we are?
To tell the truth, I think so. Maybe smarter. They don’t destroy their environment or start wars, do they?