grey whales in clayoquot sound visit the photographer's website

A Whale of a Baby

by Rebecca Hurwitz with the help of biologist Wendy Szaniszlo, Tofino

the letter 'E'

Every spring brings a baby boom on the West coast as the grey whales return with their young from their winter in Baja, Mexico. As a new mom myself, I wonder what it takes to be a mama whale? While we know little about the details of the grey whale reproductive cycle, there are certainly some similarities and differences between us and our mammal relatives.

In our part of the world, pregnant women are offered much support and people are suddenly happy to assist with everyday tasks. I somehow doubt that grey whale cows are offered so much support during their pregnancy. In October, pregnant females lead the migration south from Alaska. There isn't a lot of opportunity for assistance. No one can cook them dinner while they put up their feet and they certainly can't be offered a lift down south. In fact, the males play no apparent role in the lives of their offspring beyond conception.

Like humans, whales must increase their caloric intake during pregnancy to pack on a healthy amount of weight to provide for the baby. Most of this feeding takes place during the summer in Northern waters when they gain up to 30% of their body weight. We don't actually know how much weight whales gain when they are pregnant, but thank goodness they have the buoyancy provided by the water to help ease the strain.

After thirteen and a half months gestation the calf is born. As mammals, we share the characteristic of birthing live young. Whales generally give birth to one calf--multiple births are extremely rare in the cetacean world. While we don't know if whales have developed any pain management techniques during labour, it could be said that they have pioneered water birth. Grey whale calving takes place in warm, shallow waters and the young make their appearance head first, which is unusual for cetaceans.

Our newborns are so dependent on their parents that we refer to the first part of their lives as the 4th trimester. We feed them, clothe them and change their diapers while their body systems continue to de?velop. A whale calf instinctively swims to the surface within seconds for its first breath; with the help of its mother. Within 30 minutes of its birth, the baby whale can swim. Calves nurse for the first seven or eight months on extremely rich milk, which is more than 50% fat. Human milk by comparison is only 2% fat! Baby whales drink 50-80 pounds of milk each day, which helps them to grow from their birth length of 4.6m to 7m by the time they are weaning.

By late February, mothers and calves must think about making their return journey to Alaska. Their 9,000 km journey will bring the young through our waters for the first time. When you spot them off of our coast give them a big round of applause. This is the first of their many migrations. You've come a long way baby!

Rebecca Hurwitz is not a whale expert, but is learning more about babies every day from her new daughter Calla. She hopes to be spotting whales from the Wild Pacific Trail any day now and is looking forward to the Chowder Chowdown!

Watch for opportunities to join Wendy Szaniszlo in action throughout the Pacific Rim Whale Festival at one of her many talks and interactive adventures - don't miss the boat!

tofino | tofino time | activities | accommodation | events | directory
maps | travel | food | art & artists | photos | horoscope | tides
search | magazine | issues | articles | advertising | contact us

hosted in tofino by & studio tofino
© 2002-2014 copyright Tofino Time Magazine in Tofino Canada

© 2002-2011 Tofino Time Magazine & ThinkTank Design Inc.

Grey whales give birth to their offspring in Baja and return with their young from their winter in Mexico. During their first migration north, mothers and their calves feed in the waters of Clayoquot and Barkley Sound.

tofino time march 2009

quick links:
tofino accomodations
tofino calendar

tofino surf report
tofino horoscope
september horoscope
tofino map
tofino fishing report
tofino tides
tofino weddings

tofino events:
tofino concerts
tofino events
tofino movies
tofino festivals
tofino yoga classes

tofino time magazine:
tofino time september 2012
captain vincente tofino
readers choice: the best of tofino
floating gardens at freedom cove
tofino event listings for september 2012
tofino concerts in september 2012
tofino movies in september 2012
tofino tide table for september 2012
tofino surf reports for september 2012
cox bay | wickaninnish beach
chesterman beach
tonquin beach
tofino brewing co.
horoscope for april 2013
tofino wedding guide

tofino accommodation:
tofino cabin
tofino camping
bed & breakfasts in Tofino
tofino hostels
tofino motels
tofino hotels
tofino vacation rentals
petfriendly accommodation

tofino bike rentals
tofino bear watching
tofino bird watching
tofino boat charters & cruises
tofino fishing
hot springs cove
sea kayaking in tofino
tofino storm watching
tofino surfing
tofino whale watching
tofino yoga

tofino art galleries
tofino books
tofino boutiques & gift shops
food stores in tofino
tofino outfitters

tofino yoga, spa & wellness
tofino restaurants
tofino internet cafes
tofino travel & transportation
tofino real estate
tofino vacation rentals
tofino weddings

tofino events
tofino concerts
tofino movies
tofino calendar
tofino cabins
tofino maps
tofino jobs
tofino media