Whale Watching off the Coast of Grand Manan Island
We made the most of our trip to Grand Manan Island by going on a whale watch. We booked our trip with Sea Watch Tours, the same company that offered the puffin trip. Tickets were $75.00 in American dollars but the trip is free if no whales are spotted. The trip out to sea and back takes several hours but the time flies when whales are spotted.
On our particular trip a young boy was running and jumping on the deck of the boat. His mom kind of rolled her eyes and let him go, but the first mate took issue with the boy's behavior and demanded that he remained seated because he could scare the whales. Apparently, mom took the demand seriously, and the boy remained seated for the rest of the trip.
We had the good fortune of seeing many humpback whales and right whales. They are huge and graceful. Humpback whales reach 40 to 50 feet in length and weigh 33 tons. Newborn calves are usually 12 to 16 feet and weigh about 3,000 pounds. The humpback has a life span of 50 to 60 years.
It is amazing to watch one of these huge mammals breach the sea, with its body almost completely out of the water and landing with a huge belly slap or a half roll on its back.
Our tour guide pointed out other behaviors, such as tail and fin slapping. When a whale prepares for a deep dive the tail becomes perpendicular to the water, and the whale may slap the water with the tapered edges of the tail, called flukes, just before submerging, making a loud sound. They also will swim on their side and lazily slap one of their flippers onto the water. The guide also pointed out how whales can be identified by some of their unique tail coloring, barnacles, and types of damage to that area of the body.
It was also mesmerizing listening to them breathe out of their blow holes. It was a slow but very audible breath, somewhat like the chuff of an idling steam train. Hearing it made us feel connected to them as mammals—all of us air breathers. Whales are called conscious breathers, which means that they must rise to the surface to exhale and take in fresh oxygen. We landlubbers do not have to think about breathing, but a whale could drown if it accidentally tried to breathe underwater.
The blowhole is covered by a flexible muscle that closes when under water. When the whale surfaces, the muscle relaxes, and the whale exhales, sending up a plume of warm water vapor—sometimes eight to ten feet into the air—that condenses on contact with the cooler surrounding air, much like humans exhaling in cold weather.
Fall is a good time to go whale watching because they are preparing to travel to the Caribbean for the winter, where they breed and rear their young. After doing a little research, we decided we would like to take a trip to Bermuda one spring to whale watch. Apparently, the whales pass close to the shores of the island on their return trip to the North Atlantic.
According to a Whales Bermuda research site, Blue whales can grow to 150 feet and weigh in around 175 tons with a life span of 30-40 years. That is a massive body to hurl out of the water. Humpback whales reach 40 to 50 feet in length, and newborn calves are usually 12 to 16 feet and weigh about 3,000 pounds. The humpback has a life span of 50 to 60 years.
Barbara and I took dozens of photos of these beautiful creatures, awed by their size and athleticism and mesmerized by watching water cascading off their tails as they dove deeper.
To see more, go to our collection of photos from Grand Manan.