Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Whale of a Tale

While in Maine I really wanted to check off one of my bucket list items and go on a whale watch. The husband had been, years ago, off Cape Cod, but the boys and I never before had the opportunity and to see such great and beautiful creatures in their natural habitat. The North Atlantic is home to several different species, including fin back, humpback, minke, pilot, sei, northern right and sperm whales. I knew that the chance of seeing a northern right whale was slim, as there are only about 300 of them left in the wild, but we were hopeful that we would see some others.

We headed up north to Bar Harbor on Sunday, hoping to catch the 8:30 a.m. boat. Sadly, we were plagued with fog once again and that tour ended up canceled. We decided to hang around and try for the 1 p.m. tour. Bar Harbor's not a bad town to spend some time in if you happen to be in the area. We had some delicious blueberry muffins and wandered around some of the shops. The boys had fun watching the fog roll in and out of the harbor and the few boats that were working come and go. We also ate more lobster!! Unfortunately, the fog never cleared and the 1 p.m. tour was also canceled. We headed back to the campground pretty bummed and afraid a whale watch just wasn't in the cards for this trip.

The drive up to Belfast had been a marathon one, so we were already thinking of spreading out the drive home over a couple of days. When we returned to the campground I began searching for whale watches that left from ports south of Belfast in the hopes of hitting one on our way home. I found one called Cap'n Fish's Whale Watch out of Boothbay Harbor, about an hour and a half south of Belfast and on our way home, so we decided to give it one more try on Tuesday morning and purchased tickets for the 9:30 tour aboard the Pink Lady II:

Tuesday turned out to be a beautiful morning, with not a drop of fog in sight! We boarded the boat and found some great seats right up front. We were on our way!

The trip out of Boothbay Harbor was really interesting. The lobster men were out checking their traps and we saw lots of different birds out looking for snacks. We also saw several pods of harbor porpoise and harbor seals. The first mate Daniella pointed out interesting landmarks including the Burnt Island Lighthouse:

And also the summer home of the Wicked Witch of the West, Margaret Hamilton, on Cape Island:

Once out of the harbor we began the search for whales. Daniella told everyone to keep their eyes peeled for the plume of water from the whale's blowhole as they surface to take a breath, usually the first thing you see. We watched, and we watched, then we watched some more. For more than an hour nearly every person on the ship watched the horizon hoping to see something. We had been instructed by Daniella to yell out if we saw anything so that Captain Mark could pilot the ship closer to investigate. We had sailed through two of the whale's feeding grounds and no one had seen anything. The captain had announced that we were going to have to turn back, and that a whale sighting was not likely to be in the cards for today. As the ship was turning, the teen suddenly shouted that he had seen something on the horizon. I didn't believe him at first, but then the man next to me said he saw it too, so Daniella came over with the binoculars and Captain Mark started to steer the ship in that direction. We watched and watched, then all of a sudden 2 fin back whales surfaced to take a breath right in front of us! It was an absolutely amazing sight! After taking a couple breaths they dove down to feed and luckily surfaced again about 7 minutes later and we got to enjoy a couple more fleeting glances of these magnificent creatures! We discovered that capturing a picture of these wondrous moments is really tough, and basically a matter of luck. The husband snapped this one at just the right moment:

We were fortunate to see a couple of minke whales and some pilot whales on our trip back to the harbor. It was a great way to end our trip, and I guess the 170 bucks we shelled out for the teens glasses paid off!!

Here's a picture of the whale spotter himself with first mate Daniella:

And all 3 boys with Captain Mark:

One more item checked off the bucket list! Many, many more to go...

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