Gray Whale Nears Two Months in Klamath River

Aug 12, 2011
Outside Magazine

Gray Whale in Klamath River, Ashala TylorPhoto by Ashala Tylor (See more pictures and get more updates on her blog and Flickr)

When photographer Ashala Tylor heard a loud knock at her door early one morning in late June, she wasn't sure what to expect. Then her neighbor started yelling. "There's a whale in the river. There's a whale in the river."

She grabbed her camera and sprinted out the door towards the Klamath River, or, her backyard. She did not go back into her house for eight hours, even though the female gray whale and calf were swimming only 20 yards or so away.

Tylor is a professional photographer, and she's traveled all over the world's oceans trying to photograph whales. "I've never had the same opportunity to have one so close for such a long time."

According to Tylor, the whale has now been in the river near her California home for more than 50 days. She entered the river with her calf in late June, en route from Baja California to Alaska. On July 23 or 24, the calf was seen swimming back toward the ocean, but the mother remained.

Gray Whale in Klamath River   Photo by Ashala Tylor (See more pictures and get more updates on her blog and Flickr)

Scientists aren't sure exactly why the whale may have decided to stay in the river. (I'm still waiting on feedback from a few.) Worried about her health, they tried to scare her back to the sea by playing orca calls from speakers on a boat. That didn't work, and so they have resolved to study the cetacean while she remains. They've measured the gas concentrations as she breathes and noted the change in the appearance of her skin from so much time in fresh water. As they take notes, cars and tourists pile up on the bridge over the river. Boats motor a safe distance away from the 45-foot-long mammal. Stand up paddleboarders and kayakers venture closer. All the while, Tylor is there to take pictures.

Gray Whale in Klamath River   Photo by Ashala Tylor (See more pictures and get more updates on her blog and Flickr)

"From a photography standpoint, it's wonderful," she says. "But I wish she would find her way back out to the ocean."

"That's what everybody here is praying for right now."

--Joe Spring

Filed To: Adventure, Media, Science, Nature

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