Dance of Dolphins
Aug 15, 2008
|Whales and dolphins make our day! - Friday, August 15
We got up and out early today. The whales are waiting off the coast of St. Anthony and we are anxious to see them. We drove through town to the boat dock and found a place to park. One thing I love about Canada - it’s big and parking is never a problem.
Several groups of people were already there and several more showed up in the next quarter hour. Enough to make a good boat load. Sometimes watching the people on these trips is as entertaining as watching the wildlife. There were half a dozen children and that is always good too.
The Captain and his son boarded, and we cast off onto a flat calm harbor that was just throwing off the morning mist. On the way out we passed some serious fishing boats, one a long orange vessel named Ice Bird. As we cleared the harbor the swell picked up a little, but the fog did not lift. I was on the top deck and the Captain’s son came up to look for whales.
He was a young man in his thirties who said he’d never fished because when he was young he got seasick. Now he’s outgrown that, but by the time he did fishing did not seem like a lucrative occupation any more. Now he works this boat with his father in the summer and logs in the winter, and he loves it. He talked freely, but kept his eyes on the water. He said, “If it was clear I could spot a humpback 4 miles away.”
He seemed confident he would see one anyway, and soon he did - a large humpback lying lethargically in the water and moving very slowly. We followed it for a while as it surfaced to breathe and then arched it’s back and went back under. Occasionally it would dive and we would not see it for ten minutes, but then it would be back.
Our guide recognized this whale and called him Killer. He said they sometimes breach and often come to the boat to check it out, but today Killer was just being lazy. They usually have to see a humpback’s tail to identify the individual, but they could identify Killer by his chewed up dorsal fin, which was damaged in an encounter with an Orca or killer whale.
Occasionally the man would point out dolphins frolicking in the distance, and at one time we could see them leaping clear out of the water. They were too far away to photograph, but it was exciting to see them leaping and splashing like that. Then gradually they began to come closer and soon we were treated to an unforgettable show.
They would race alongside the boat and surface right next to it. They were both White Sided Atlantic Dolphins and White Beaked Dolphins, and their white marking made them easy to see under water. We could watch them racing us and each other, and frequently darting under the boat. It made them easier to photograph, because we could watch them coming to the surface and focus on the place where they would appear.
They weren’t leaping out of the water so we usually only saw their dorsal and their backs, but sometimes they would all surface at once and you would see six or eight of them appear at once. It was like a choreographed dance and it was thrilling to see them so close.
The Captain spotted another whale and headed for it and the dolphins followed. Several times we were treated to the sight of the whale surfacing and dolphins surfacing right alongside him. While we seldom saw the whale’s tail and we never saw one breach, it was a grand show and no one aboard was disappointed. The two and a half hours passed all too quickly, and soon we were headed back to shore.
They don’t have to go out far to see whales here, and we were never out of sight of land. The fog never entirely lifted but it didn’t matter. On the way in the young man talked about the species we’d seen and some we hadn’t seen but that frequent the area in various seasons. He had pictures of the different mammals and also several pictures he’d taken himself of killer whales attacking and killing a Minke Whale.
Back at the dock we found a note on our windshield from Ken and Mary, who were scheduled for the one o’clock tour. They drove up while we were still there and we got to talk to Ken for a moment. Mary was inside trying to clear her camera’s flash card before the trip. We said ‘goodbye’ and found a nice café in a motel where we had a good lunch at a table alongside some of our boat mates. They were from Ontario and we asked them if there is anybody left in Ontario? It seems like every second person we meet is from Ontario. Ken and Mary are from Ontario - where else?
We found a hardware store where we could buy some screws we needed, and next door a Chevrolet dealer where we got some air in a tire, and then we drove out of town and headed across the peninsula for St. Barbe. That is where we’ll catch the ferry tomorrow for Labrador. It was a nice easy drive. We retraced some of our route coming up a few days ago, and then drove a new road that took us south along the Gulf coast.
We got there early and topped off our gas tank. Then found a small RV park across the street from the ferry ticket office. We got a space with electricity and settled in for the night. While it was still light I took a walk to the ferry dock and took some pictures. A beagle was raiding a trash can and I had a great time watching him. The ferry came in a few hours later and it will stay overnight so we can board it in the morning. Then off to Labrador and a new chapter in our adventure.