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Videos of Oregon Coast Whales Breaching

Published 09/02/21 at 5:46 PM PDT
By Andre' GW Hagestedt

Videos of Oregon Coast Whales Breaching

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(Oregon Coast) – Spotting a whale for the first time is nothing short of a transcendent experience, and the excitement doesn't really wear off much the more it happens. But seeing them breach or spyhop? Well, that's another cross-dimensional emotion altogether. (Above: gray whale breaching on the Oregon coast, courtesy Oregon State Parks)

Seeing a whale along the Oregon coast flying out of the water then flopping back in is nothing short of mind-blowing.

You can get an idea of this wild experience from the two videos here, one from Dave Foley of the Facebook group Port Orford and PNW Whale Watchers, as well as the Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay.

"Speechless......The Pinnacle of my Whaling Career." * Port Orford, OR 8-29-2016 * No whales were harmed during this capture.

Posted by Dave Foley on Monday, August 29, 2016

The short but astounding video from Foley was taken in Port Orford back in 2016.

Breaches are when whales lunge out of the water, sometimes getting airborne. If you're lucky, you get to see this watery Oregon coast visitor nearly completely out of the water, with only their tales still in the ocean as they jump out for a second. It's been described as “looking a bit like a submarine when it makes an emergency surface.”

According to the Whale Watch Center (in a 2009 conversation with Oregon Coast Beach Connection), it is one seriously amazing feat to get these great behemoths into the air to any degree. They weigh about 70,000 pounds, or about 35 tons.

Videos of Oregon Coast Whales Breaching

In 2015, Whale Watch Center volunteer Edith Hitchings snagged some amazing photos of Killer whales zipping up and down the central Oregon coast, including some breaching (see above).

Another exciting sight is whales doing spyhops. This is when they briefly emerge from the water with their eyes fixed on something, apparently looking at the world around them.

Gray whale breaching

Today from 10-12, you can jump over to our YouTube channel ( www.youtube.com/user/OregonParks) for a sneak preview live stream of whale watching. We want to make sure to work out any kinks before next week's daily streams starting at 10 a.m. Take a look at our GOAT video of a breaching whale.

Posted by Oregon State Parks on Friday, March 20, 2020

Back in 2009, it was Morris Grover who was in charge of the center.

“I've seen them do that, then go down into the water, spin around 180 degrees, and come back so that the other eye is facing the same direction as the last eye was,” Grover said. “They are extremely agile under water, and can spin around or maneuver very quickly.

"They raise up straight out of the water. They are actually looking at the people or the shoreline. When I watched the whale pivot, it was so that he could see all the people standing on the sidewalk and he scanned 180 degrees. Then the second spyhop was looking at the same area again as if to see if we were watching."

Breaching or spyhops don't always go well. In a bizarre 2011 incident, a boat out of Astoria got body slammed by a large whale, damaging the boat. It was random and startling, but luckily no one was hurt. The vessel did sustain some damage, and the whale left behind chunks of its flesh in the incident.

Experts guessed it was a juvenile and just could not understand where it was going or its spatial relation to the boat.

Back then, Scott Baker, Associate Director of OSU's Marine Mammal Institute at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, said it's likely the creature was startled.

“The seas were fairly choppy, as I understand it,” he said. “This would've made it noisy for the whale, and its ability to localize sound would've been limited.”

So it's likely the whale couldn't hear the boat, Baker said. Because of this, it was startled, and likely leapt out of the water to disastrous results.

“Breaching can be a reaction to being startled,” he said. “It looks like the boat didn't see the whale, and the whale didn't see the boat.”

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Gray whale and her calf, courtesy Seaside Aquarium

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees nearly 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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