Update April 1st, 1998 - 12:30pm
SAN DIEGO (April 1, 1998) Following a picture-perfect release
yesterday from the Coast Guard Cutter Conifer, J.J. the gray whale appears
to be heading north. Scientists from Hubbs--Sea World Research Institute
(H-SWRI) confirmed today that their most recent radio transmissions, received
early this morning at 4 a.m., indicated the 14-month old whale is in the
vicinity of the city of Coronado on San Diego Bay. "While they dont have
visual contact with the whale at this time, the radio signal is clear and
strong," said Jim Antrim, SeaWorld San Diegos general curator. "Rough
weather threatened to cancel the tracking boats project last night, but
this morning theyre back following J.J.s signal, and scanning the water
to locate her."
In a press briefing this morning at SeaWorld, Antrim said the Megaladon, a 70 sport fishing vessel, will continue to follow J.J. through Friday. Brent Stewart, Ph.D., a senior researcher at H-SWRI who is aboard the boat, said the crew is also recording vocalizations from the whale. This is significant, Stewart said, because the vocalizations may help J.J. establish contact with other gray whales in the vicinity who are migrating north.
By April 10, Stewart said the satellite tracking system should be fully
functional and people will be able to monitor J.J.s location on the Internet
J.J., who arrived at SeaWorld in January 1997 comatose and near death, is the largest animal to be part of the adventure parks rescue and rehabilitation program. After 14 months of care at SeaWorld, J.J. was released back into the Pacific yesterday with the help of the Coast Guard and Navy. San Diego Police escorted a 9-vehicle caravan from the Mission Bay park to a pier at Naval Station San Diego. J.J. was transported in a cushioned 40-foot animal transport unit secured to a flatbed trailer.
When the whale was lowered into the ocean off Pt. Loma and released at 10:18 a.m. yesterday, she took a deep breath and immediately dove straight down. Stewart said the radio transmitted picked up three separate signals, and preliminary information revealed the whale was heading south. After several hours the scientists aboard the Megaladon established visual contact with the whale, and confirmed she was changing direction and spyhopping, a typical behavior where an animal bobs out of the water to check its surroundings.
Threatening weather conditions last night temporarily grounded the scientists, but they are back on J.J.s trail. They will not disclose the exact location of the whale, Antrim said, out of consideration for the safety of the animal. One of J.J.s biggest threats in the ocean could be curious sightseers.
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