EPISODE 574 WHALE WATCHING IN STRAIT OF BELLE ISLE….FRIGHTENING
The rocky eastern shore of Newfoundland was strewn with lobster traps…some bashed up but most could
be easily repaired. Seemed a loss that we could help relieve. So began our Lobster Trap Rescue
Our fishing had not been too successful using fishing rods. Great schools of capelin rolled onto
the eastern beaches of Newfoundland not far from, St. John’s.
Then we cut straight across the
island to the western beaches along the Strait of Belle Isle where a big surprise awaited us.
Really big. Terrifyingly big
“Would your boys like to go whale watching here?”
said the first person we met on the banks of the Strait of Belle Isle.
We were on the long road to L’Anse aux Meadows. Just taking our time as the road was delightfully
wild and the Strait of Belle Isle was easy to access as we coddled along. Two adults, two kids, two dogs,
three bicycles, two lobster traps, one pop up camper, one well used Ford van…and all the other stuff
needed for a cross Canada summer trip living as close to the land as possible.
In earlier episodes I described the capelin roll and also our rescue of some lost lobster traps that we decided to
return to the owners…see picture above. Note Marjorie is still wearing her bikini. The year was circa 1980 (mistake
in episode 573 where I said 1970)
From our campsite we could see a small Newfoundland village of less than a dozen buildings with open rowboats
bobbing in a rock enclosed harbour. An easy walk carrying a perfect hand made lobster trap.
this trap that you must have lost.” Expected thanks but just to an indifferent shrug. “Government pays for the
losses…nn need to rescue them.”
I know that sounded hostile but it was not. Just a statement of the facts by a young fisherman
who was really quite friendly.
“Would your boys like to go whale watching?”
“We would love to do that, dad…Can we?”
“I will get the motor gassed up…you can wade through the water
to the boat…only waste deep.”, he said while i was trying to translate
the message on his T shirt which seemed to say “Hard work can’t
hurt Yah BUT I’m not taking any chances.” This was a young man
with a sense of humour. Too bad I have forgotten his name…and the
name of the village. Maybe I could find the place from the satellite but
THEN THE REAL ADVENTURE BEGAN
We were not too far offshore when the first whale appeared…maybe two whales or more.
Could have been a Minki whale or perhaps a pod of dolphins.
One thing for sure. As we proceeded the whales ran under our boat…just barely.
“Do the whales know we are here?”
“Sure…they have eyes and ears…better than ours.”
Up to this point Andrew and Kevin were leaning over the rim of
the boat. Once a whale slipped by about 10 feet from us…and parallel
to us. Andrew hit the bottom of our boat . Full body slam.
Those dark blurs are part of whatever pod of whales or dolphins were playing with us.
“This is their playground…not ours.”
“Is there a chance they will lift our boat ?”
(which meant it was possible)
“These creatures are longer than our boat.”
“Whales. What would you expect.”
Then something really big surfaced. Too close for comfort. Looked like a Humpback whale fin splashing.
Really big whatever it was. We began to see whales where no whales existed. The dark blue patches
of the Strait of Belle Isle water looked like whales.
Andrew did not see them because he stayed on the boat below eye level. Unusual for him.
This whale … only got part of him …slipped by so close that it seemed touchable
All of us were worried.
“What happens if a whale lifts our boat…dumps us. We have no life jackets.”
“Life jackets are no use here.”
“You must be kidding.”
“Water is so cold we could never reach shore…Hypothermia would get us.”
“Not really. The whales are just curious. No evil intent. Sometimes I think
they even know who I am.”
I did not take these last two whale pictures. A pair of humpback whales. Get the size of them…more than twice the size of our boat;
Just imagine if these two humpbacks decided to show off beside our boat.
If they did we would all join Andrew flat out on the bottom of the boat. Or, worse,
at the bottom of the Strait of Belle Isle.
Why did I not take more pictures? I needed to grip the gunwales of the boat with both hands.
why are the sides called gunwales anyway. I hope the whales do not hear that word.
They might get angry. Why? The word ‘gun’ spliced onto the word ‘wales’
sounds bloody unfriendly. I read Moby Dick long ago. Scared me back then.
Close up whale watching in an overgrown rowboat is not advisable.
But the young fisherman was a great example of Newfoundland friendliness.
post script: The Strait of Belle Isle is a perfect whale watching site as it forms a
natural pathway from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to the cool Arctic waters.
Why would whales want to use this chute? Lots of capelin…thousands and thousands of
those little sardine sized fish
are needed to fill a whale’s tummy.