We got sprayed by a whale

Linda and I once went on a whale watching adventure out of Campobello Island, and we saw many whales. We got so close to one, that when it blew, the water drenched all of us in the back of the boat!

We also boated right up to the old sow whirlpool where twice a day the Bay of Fundy’s very high and very low tides collide. It’s an amazing thing to watch.

Sadly, our whales are disappearing, although there are still some great days when they see lots of whales. But that has become erratic.

Here’s some information I recently gathered from the Island Institute’s newsletter:

Zack Klyver is a marine biologist and naturalist who manages the Bar Harbor Whale Watch company. He’s concerned about what he sees as too-sudden changes within the habitats of traditional Gulf of Maine whale species: humpbacks, minkes, and two endangered species, finbacks and right whales. Even sperm whales (think: Moby Dick) have been spotted in the Gulf of Maine since 2012, so far none of them white. “It’s a dynamic system, always changing,” Klyver said.

“All the fresh -water ice melt in Greenland affects ocean salinity and is speeding up the current. Right whale sightings have gone down by half in the Bay of Fundy since 2010, but in the spring, off Cape Cod, they’ve gone up 300 percent,” he said.

“Whales feed on plankton and fish. Maybe there are more nutrients there in the spring. Here, overall, the number of whale sightings has been going down. Between 1989 and 2016, we encountered whales on 80 to 90 percent of our trips. In 2017 that number dropped to 34 percent. Are whales the canary in the coal mine for the Gulf of Maine? There’s a tremendous need for more information,” Kylver said.


There are still great whale watching opportunities in both Lubec and Campobello. Here’s more info from that Island Institute column, written by Tom Walsh:

Along the Bay of Fundy, Downeast Charter Boat Tours in Lubec has been successfully showcasing excursions without a focus on whale sightings. Lorna Doone’s passenger capacity is six. Over the last 10 years, the focal point of every outing is the Old Sow whirlpool, a rare example of tidal marine hydraulics. It’s the dynamics of twice-a-day collisions of the Bay of Fundy’s very-high and very-low tides. An up-close look requires a skilled captain who is maneuvering a small vessel.

“The first season we started we had whale sightings on 100 percent of our trips,” said Capt. Ralph Dennison. “Then it slacked off. It is not that there were less whales, they just don’t all come into the bay. Last year was unbelievable, lots of humpbacks, finbacks and the occasional right whale. And we always see Old Sow, two lighthouses, and lots of seals, bald and golden eagles and osprey.”


Last year Linda and I saw a lot of whales and seals from the East Quoddy lighthouse on Campobello island. The bay seemed to be full of them and we watched through our binoculars for a long time. Very entertaining!

So I guess the message is even though whale sightings are down you still have a decent chance of seeing some. Just be careful about how close you get to them unless you want to get drenched!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.