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The Ultimate Mammal Migration

My thoughts and sketches were turning north to my road trip along the California Coast.

I would be using the quaint coastal town of Mendocino as my base camp to explore points north and south along the Mendocino County Coast.

Since I was making my visit during Thanksgiving week, I planned to turn my scope and pen towards the west, to witness one of the longest mammalian migrations in the world.

This is the annual migration of the gray whale. In mid November, I was hoping to spot the southern migration of pregnant females as they headed south to the birthing lagoons of Baja California from their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic.

Just down the street from my Mendocino digs at the Mendocino Arts Center, is Mendocino Headlands State Park, one of the best whaling points on the Mendo coast.

Before I headed out on my three hour road trip to the north, I wanted to understand the life cycle and form of the whale that whalers dubbed “Devilfish”.

And to do this, I opened my new Stillman & Birn Beta Series journal and started to fill some pages. Any adventure for me, always starts with a map, in this case, the migration route of the “California” gray whale.

I also did a spread about the morphology of a gray whale. I drew a whale and added labels to various parts and then added a description of the whale’s dive sequence (a valuable tool for identifying grays in the field), and specs of the whale

I set a goal for myself, that I would fill in all the pages of this journal on my weeklong Thanksgiving Break. Let’s see if I can do it. I have cheated a bit by filling in 11 pages so far, some of which are included in this post.

But art is always a bit of a cheat. As Picasso said, “Art is the lie that helps us see the truth.”

And the goal of my sketching life is always to see the “truth”.

Gray whale skeleton at the Long Marine Lab in Santa Cruz.