We endured a bone chilling day today upon the waters of the St. Lawrence. The cold was driven into our core by a relentless rain that became needle sharp as our 12 person Zodiac tore through the fog. By the end of 3 hours in that open boat our stiffened joints resisted movement. 180 minutes of cold, rain, fog… an unrequited bladder… and worth every moment! The whales didn’t mind either.
We were advised to wear every piece of warm weather clothing that we had before arriving at the dock. Once there we suited up into flotation foul weather gear, looking and feeling like the Michelin Man. I thought, “There is no way that I will be cold in this rig!” I was wrong.
The fog and rain merged the sky and sea so that they became indistinguishable from one another. At times it was like floating within the center of a ping-pong-ball. 36 participants were allocated 12 each into 3 small vessels. We were among 8 English speakers who were assigned together onto one boat. Our captain was accommodating and displayed a real enthusiasm for the excursion.
It took 15 minutes for us to enter the main channel from port. A 5 knot tidal current continued to propel us downstream even when the motors were at idle. We periodically paused to listen for the sounds of whales blowing. The deep rumbled “whoose’’ of huge lungs exhaling carried eerily across the water from every direction. The captain’s experience drove us time and again to the nearest creatures. Along with hosts of smaller marine mammals there were Beluga Whales, Finback Whales, and the magnificent Humpback Whales! Sightings became so common that I began leaving my camera in its case.
As it was calving season we remained a respectful and lawful distance from the Belugas. The Finbacks seemed endlessly long as they gently rounded above the surface. These are the second largest of all whales and one of the largest creatures to have ever existed. The captain estimated that the examples we saw today were easily over 20 meters (65 feet). Some have been known to reach 85 feet long. They are sleek and reputed to be the fastest of all whales. Regrettably, they were a bit shy and while the viewing was good the pictures were not.
The Humpbacks almost seemed to seek us out. These creatures can grow to 50 feet long, weigh over 65,000 pounds, and live up to 50 years. On occasion they paralleled our vessel nearly within an outstretched arms reach. We could watch them silently glide just below the surface, periodically breaking the surface, blowing, and gently curving back into the depths. At times they raised their flukes as if waving goodbye. The captain was able to identify each of them by their unique tail markings, telling us the creatures name, gender, and occasionally a bit of its history. This was an extraordinary experience in a trip that has featured extraordinary experiences.
Back at camp a hot shower and nap did much to restore my core temperature.
We capped off the evening with dinner at Chez Mathilde. We expected a meal but we were rewarded with fine dining and the smokey tunes of an excellent jazz duo.
Tomorrow we begin our day-by-day journey further down the St. Lawrence. Who knows what surprises await us… perhaps the Northern Lights?
Peace Everyone. Pete