Volunteers gear up for winter whale watching

DEPOE BAY, Ore. -- Spend just a little time with Al Wilson, and you can tell this is a guy who loves coming to work. Even if he doesn't get paid a dime.

"It's really cool the first time you have a whale right next to you. You can hear it breathe. It's really exciting. It's a lot of fun," said Wilson.

He is one of dozens of volunteers working at 24 sites as part of the Whale Watching Spoken Here program.

"The gray whale is a curious animal. It will stick its head out and look at the boat and interact with people," Wilson said.

He loves using his binoculars to help visitors spot the 18,000 gray whales making their 6,000 mile voyage from the Bering Sea to Baja.

But he also takes the chance to educate them about how close they came to extinction.

The whales are making a comeback along the Pacific coast, but heavy whaling devastated their numbers in the Atlantic and in Asia.

That's why Wilson urges everyone to come out to see a sight most people will never get to experience.

"It's so exciting to see a creature that is 37 feet long, that weighs 35 tons, swim 20 feet from you," Wilson said.

This program runs through Dec. 31. Then it picks up again in the spring.