Update: Whale Watching

Bar HarborWhale watching was something that we had considering many times. We talked about it last summer when we were on the Pacific Northwest coast and again this summer on the Canadian coast at PEI. The timing was just never right.

However since Blake was coming to visit for a few days, we decided to give whale watching a try. We'd been told to bundle up, so we wore layers and took hats and gloves.

Since October is the beginning of off-season, we were surprised to see Bar Harbor very busy when we arrived.


Acadia Drive

The morning trip was filled with people from a cruise ship, so we made reservations on the afternoon sightseeing boat and spent the morning driving around Acadia National Park. We also stopped for lunch at a local restaurant.


whale cruiseThe Boat

We chose the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co because it seemed to be the most popular and had a number of boats.

When we arrived after lunch, a line had formed for the trip. We proceeded through a security checkpoint where we showed our IDs. Some people were randomly selected to be searched. We thought this was a little odd, but we guess it makes the Homeland Security people feel better.

By the time we got on-board the top deck was filled so we chose a nice bench near the railing. It turned out to be a great spot for viewing the whales.


sailboatAfter everyone was boarded, we listened to a safety recording and backed into Frenchman's Bay.

It was interesting to see the boats in the harbor including the large sailboats and cruise ships.


harbor sealThe Ride

Throughout the trip, a well-informed naturalist provided commentary. As we entered Frenchman's Bay, we passed an anchored cruise ship, the four Porcupine Islands, and Egg Island lighthouse. We saw seabirds, porpoises, and harbor seals on the hour trip out into the ocean, about 25 miles.

The wind was cold, so we quickly bundled up once the boat reached full-speed.


The Whales

Our boat slowed to a stop at the edge of a deep shelf (500 feet deep) in the ocean that was a known feeding area for whales. Almost immediately, a female humpback and her baby appeared on the horizon. Siphon and her baby are well-known to the naturalist who identified them right away.

siphon and baby

After a few minutes on the surface both mother and baby dove under the water revealing their fluke/tail. The display was met with ooh's and ahh's from the crowded whale watching tour.

whale tail

The captain was careful to move the boat so that each side got an equal number of whale views. The whales stayed under water for 4 to 12 minutes before reappearing. In between we were entertained by seabirds, seals, and interesting information from the naturalist.

siphon and baby

Notice the blowhole on the whale above. The whale below is getting ready to dive.


Larry took still photographs while Annette used the video camera to record the event. Although Blake got the binoculars out once, we really didn't need them most of the time.

In addition to Siphon and her baby, we saw another humpback as well as a fintail whale.

Although it was overcast, the sea was calm so it was easy to see the whales. The sun came out briefly at the end of our viewing time.


Photo-identification uses the natural markings on individual whales to identify them. For example, each whale has a specific pattern on its fluke similar to a fingerprint. We were able to go to WhaleNet and find photographs of Siphon in the Humpback Whale database. Do a search for siphon and you can compare the whale tails!

whale tale

Check out our short whale videos! These are QuickTime movies.



The Ride Back

The return trip was quick and we were soon back in Frenchman's Bay enjoying views of the coastline. We decided that the next time we're on the west coast or back in the Maritimes, we'll do another whale tour. It was a great adventure.


Lobster Boats

While Annette was doing some shopping in the whale tour store, Larry photographed a lobster boat arriving at the dock. A pickup backed down the boat ramp next to the boat.


The fishermen unloaded the gear and the lobster catch for the day into the back of the pickup.

Lobster catch

The photo below shows a lobster boat with a small sail on the back. The sail is used to increase stability when checking traps.

lobster boat


Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 10/04.