San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionHistory of the Museum

Trip to Trinidad Whaling Station, July-August 1926

A Gray Whale is Brought In
July 20

The traps held but a couple of shrews this morning. A trap I had set in a Mt. Brewer hole held a Spilogale.

Mt. Brewer is near Fresno. So what is a Mt. Brewer hole?. Spilogale is the skunk genus.

July 21

Set several gopher traps this morning & picked up several gophers during the day.

A California Gray Whale was brought in late this afternoon. The animal had been killed near the entrance of Crescent City Bay and was in company of three others. The school was feeding near the breakers when taken. This species is reputed to be nearly or quite extinct & the taking of this specimen came as a surprise.

The California Gray Whale is now known simply as the Gray Whale. In the years 1919-1926, only 7 Gray Whales were killed at the Moss Landing/Trinidad stations, and this was the only one captured near Trinidad. A floating whaling station off Baja California caught Gray Whales in these dwindling annual numbers, starting in 1925: 140, 42, 29, 9, 2. The Gray Whale, which is believed to have also been present in the Atlantic Ocean until several hundred years ago, is now just found in North Pacific coastal areas. Along the eastern range it has recovered sufficiently from depletion that it was removed from the U.S. list of endangered species in 1994; its estimated population is 26,000. Western Pacific population estimates are about 100 animals.

The beast was a male & 39 feet in length and a beautiful gray mottled color above and below. A few parasites were found along its sides.

The length of this whale was about average for an adult. Gray and Humpback whales are more heavily infested with parasites than other whales, possibly because they are slower swimmers. There are usually many fewer parasites on the Gray Whale's right side, because they are scraped off as the whale feeds by lying on the ocean floor on that side (however some are "left-flippered"). "Parasite" is not really an accurate term for the barnacles and lice that attach themselves to the Gray Whale, because they are not actually hurting the whale.

There were no gular creases on this animal & its mouth had a decided downward curve. The rostrum was high & rounded while the front of its mouth was rather sharp. The baleen did not come up to the tip of the mouth but started about 4 inches from the end. Neither was it as heavy nor as long as in the Finbacks.

A very large heavily muscled tongue filled the center of its mouth. This organ is evidently used to divert the water to the baleen plates when the beast is feeding and also indicates its habit of feeding in shallow water where the mouth can only be partially opened – quite different with the deep water feeding Finback.

The blubber on this California Gray was from 5 to 9 inches thick, making them very desirable from the whaler’s standpoint.

Each Gray Whale yielded 30+ barrels of oil.

Large chunks 6 to 8 inches in diameter had been gnawed out by sharks. Later in conversation with the Captain L.L. Lane, who captured the animal, I was informed that these chunks were one bite for a species of large sharks that inhabits these waters. In fact this shark is the one that attacks and kills the young whales & takes great toll of their numbers.

Could Lane be referring to the Great White Shark? It is found in this area. The photo below shows the whale. The "bomb" used to kill the whale is still visible in its side.

Gray Whale with Shark Bites
Huey photo - Gray Whale with shark bites