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San Clemente Journal

Whale Sightings are Up for Annual Migration

Feb 05, 2006 12:15PM ● Published by Don Kindred

by Rosemary Sieve

Question: What’s as big as a bus; weighs approximately 35 tons and lives to be at least fifty years of age? 
Answer: It’s the magnificent, and beautiful, California Gray Whale - and Dana Point will be celebrating this enormous creature’s migration during the month of March. 
In October of each year, this leviathan travels up to 100 miles per day, making its way to Mexico from Alaska; taking up to 10 weeks to migrate, for the birthing of calves, or, to find a mate. Making the return trip of 5000 miles from Mexico, with their offspring, between February and July, their spouting heralds the way toward Dana Point and beyond.
Hunted nearly to extinction in the early 1900s, the population of this massive mammal now numbers close to 24,000 and consequently has been removed from the endangered species list. One wonders how the gray whale can grow to be an average length of 45 feet having no teeth and snacking mainly on amphipods, tiny organisms that live on the muddy ocean floor. Adult Grays often gain up to a ton during the summer months, while their calves gain approximately three pounds an hour from milk that is roughly 53% butterfat. 
Experts believe the 200-ft. cliffs jutting out into the sea at Dana Point serve as a landmark for the migrations that have been ongoing for thousands of years. During the peak season between 40 and 50 of these gray giants pass by the harbor, and recently Humpback Whales and even pods of Killer Whales have been spotted in the open waters off Orange County; a sight to behold for fortunate onlookers. 
To get a closer look at these giants, you can take a two-hour boat trip into the open seas. Boats leave every hour, on the hour in the Dana Point Marina. Dana Wharf Sport Fishing has excursions available for $24, for adults, however, book early (949-496-5794) if you don’t want to miss out on this exciting experience.
On March 4th, preceding the festivities, the City of Dana Point encourages residents and local businesses alike to participate in a parade. Theme decorated floats are entered and displayed in full regalia as they are pulled down Pacific Coast Highway. 
The Ocean Institute, tucked away in the northern part of the harbor, opens its doors revealing jellyfish exhibits and tanks full of living history, while close-by, authentically dressed sailors welcome all to board the Pilgrim, a replica of Richard Dana’s 19th century tallship. There are exciting hands-on-activities for the whole family at the Institute, one of which is the opportunity to build a whale using real whale bone or to listen to whale songs as they communicate with each other.
During the Festival, art will be displayed on the Boardwalk and the Historical Society will feature a walking tour around the harbor. Or, for a change, how about participating in a horseshoe tournament - you will need to bring your own horseshoes, however. If that doesn’t appeal to you, just kick back and let the harbor music series waft around you as you sit under the trees eating a hot dog especially prepared for you at the Street Faire.
Whatever you choose to do, you won’t want to miss out on the festivities during March on the 4th and 5th, or a week later, on the 11th and 12th. And, due to the popularity of this event, the City of Dana Point will be providing free shuttle services around the harbor for your convenience. There’s a lot of fun to be had and the cost is minimal. b 
Check out the web site: http://www.festivalofwhales.orgwww.festivalofwhales.org or contact Penny Elia at (949) 472-7888 for the experience of a lifetime.
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