I am so very excited to have been awarded the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology’s David Henderson Inspiring Journey grant. Established in memory of David Henderson, an adventurer with a boundless enthusiasm for exploring new places, the grant supports original and exciting journeys that inspire people to think differently about our oceans and seas. My journey – The Gray Whale Cycle – will follow the southward migration of gray whales from their summer feeding grounds in the cold, rich waters of Alaska to their winter breeding grounds in the warm lagoons of Mexico between October and December 2019.
Their annual round trip of approximately 10,000 miles is one of the longest migrations on earth. Travelling close to shore, the seasonal appearance of the gray whales is noted by many: captains run whale-watching trips, kayakers keep their eyes peeled, and cliff-top walkers spot blows from vantage points. Their numbers have recovered since commercial whaling ceased and the eastern Pacific gray whales are considered a conservation success story. However, their passage along the coast is fraught with peril. Fishing gear threatens to entangle them, tourist trips and recreational boaters risk disturbing them, ships thunder past and the underwater soundscape resonates with seismic surveys, sonar, and dredging. Natural threats abound too, including killer whales that target young calves making their first migration.
Cycling over 2,000 miles along the coast between Alaska and Mexico, I will delve deeper into the lives of gray whales in the Pacific, learn more about their mammoth migrations, their friends and foes, and share their journey, as well as mine, as widely and vividly as possible. My slow pace will provide ample opportunity to observe the coastal environment they rely on and connect with those people who interact with the passing whales. Meeting community leaders, scientists, volunteer coordinators, seafarers and enthusiasts, amongst others, will reveal the spectrum of ways in which the gray whales influence so many lives, the measures being made to study and protect them, and what more is still to be done.
The Gray Whale Cycle combines many of my life’s passions – adventure and exploration, conservation and the marine environment – and I can’t wait to get going. I will be documenting all stages of the project from the initial planning and preparation, to departure and each step of what promises to be my most epic adventure to date. To follow The Gray Whale Cycle please stay in touch via this blog, Twitter (@GrayWhaleCycle), Facebook (@TheGrayWhaleCycle) and Instagram (@GrayWhaleCycle). It promises to be quite a trip!