You’d have to drive from California to New York and back—TWICE—to fully appreciate the distance traveled by the gray whale every year. This species takes the credit for longest migration route of any mammal, traveling 12,000 miles from the icy waters of the Arctic to the warm lagoons of Baja, Mexico, and back again.
Migrating pods are often spotted off the Pacific coast of North America from December through April. During peak migration, gray whales can be seen traveling in pods of 12 or more.
Once the target of commercial harvesters, gray whales faced the threat of extinction in the early 20th century. Today, this species is protected under the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act and other international bans on commercial sale.
Scientists estimate there are around 20,000 gray whales alive today.
Hear explorer, filmmaker and diver Céline Cousteau recount her experiences observing these majestic mammals: