Provided by Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation
Bruce Mate and Denise Herzing from the Hatfield Marine Science Center were counting Gray whales migrating past Yaquina Head Lighthouse in 1978, when Don Giles, also of the Science Center, headed out to the lighthouse with his binoculars and a great idea. He realized that Gray whales migrate past the Oregon coast during two special times of the year. The southbound migration peaks just around the winter holiday season and the northbound migration has one of its two peaks near the end of March during spring break. This created the best possible match of whales and visitors!
Don created the Whale Watching Spoken Here® program that year to help visitors spot Gray whales and learn a bit about them. Since the main emphasis of the program is on volunteers meeting and greeting visitors interested in whales and whale migration, Don Giles and Bev Lund coined the phrase “Whale Watching Spoken Here.”
Since then, it has grown to encompass hundreds of trained volunteers who donate their time and expertise to help visitors see these amazing Gray whales and create a rewarding educational experience. The program places trained volunteers at 26 great whale-watching sites from 10 a.m.- 1 p.m. during the winter and spring watch weeks.
A summer whale watch week was added in 2004, but discontinued in 2007 because of the misconception that we only had whales one week during the summer, when we really have them all summer long. The advantage of summer watching is the whales are really close to shore. Summer whale watching is from June through October, but the peak times are August, September and October.
The program now holds three training sessions at different locations (north, central and south coast) to make it easier for volunteers to be trained without having to travel to Newport.
Volunteers Needed! It requires about 450 volunteers to cover one week of watching at the 28 locations. Come and join us. For information to become a “Whale Watching Spoken Here” volunteer, click here.