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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Humpback whales in Tadoussac Quebec

Gray seal
(Tadoussac, Quebec Canada 8/12)
We squeezed in a short holiday to Quebec last week. Our main objective was to do some whale watching in Tadoussac along the Saint Lawrence River. Tadoussac is located about four hours drive Northeast from Quebec City, making it an 11 hour trip fo us. But the reward is a very different habitat both on land and in the water. Although the map says we are still a long way from the ocean, the ocean says otherwise. Whales, seals and porpoises can all be seen from land but a boat trip is required to really see them up close and personal.


John and Laura Van Niel
(Tadoussac, Quebec Canada 8/12)
Photo credit: Danika Van Niel
We chose a three-hour tour with Otis Expeditions, largely because they would accept online reservations and their boats are the smaller Zodiac-style ones that we prefer. Our tour started at 9:15 am and the weather was calm with no rain. There was some ground fog which made locating whales a bit of a challenge. There are no bags allowed on the boat, so I chose the 70-300mm lens and made do. Our first whale of the day was a humback, but not just any humpback. This was "Siam", the very furst humpback whale documented in the Tadoussac area when she first showed up in 1982. She was with one of her calves fom a previous year. Since that humble beginning 30 years ago, the population of humpbacks here has grown and they are now a common sight. We had three encounters with different pods.


Siam, humpback whale and her calf
(Tadoussac, Quebec Canada 8/12)
Look at the distinctively shaped dorsal fin that gives the humpback its name. Speaking of names, how did we know this one was Siam? Whales often have a distinctive pattern on thier bodies and for humpies, it is the pattern under the tail that gives them away. Think of those old ink-blot tests where the doctor asks the patient "What do you see here?" Siam got her name due to the cat-face shape she carries (and I never got a photo of her).

A few of my better fluke shots:
Humpback whale
(Taddousac, Quebec Canada 8/12)

Humpback whale
(Taddousac, Quebec Canada 8/12)

Just how close were we? THIS close...

Humpback whale
(Taddousac, Quebec Canada 8/12)

Here is a video Danika took of the whales near our boat:


We had a pair of whales surface immediately in front of our boat, traveling in the same direction as our boat. Here is the first photo I took. Notice that the nostrils or blowholes are dialated as this whale has just exhaled. In fact, the spray is visible in the air.
Surfacing humpback whale
(Tadoussac, Quebec Canada 8/12)
The second photo in this series shows the dorsal fin.
Surfacing humpback whale
(Tadoussac, Quebec Canada 8/12
Our last whale encounter was at a much greater distance but the behaviors we observed were amazing. Tirst, check out the way this whale is on its side at the surface and thrashing or rolling about. Keep in mind as you look at this photo that you are looking at one whale here. The head is to the right. This is the stuff of sea monster legends.
Rolling humpback whale
(Tadoussac, Quebec Canada 8/12)
Can you tell what this is? It is a fin alright, but which one? You are looking at the fluke or tail fin tilted 90 degrees from how it is normally held.

Now compare the photo above with the one below. It is more common to see a pectoral fin raised above the surface. This one was literally waving back and forth.


Overall, it was an amazing adventure. For Danika and her friend, it made the long drive worth it....
(right to left) Danika, Lexi and harbor porpoise
(Tadoussac, Quebec Canada 8/12)











3 comments:

  1. Can you tell me why it's called a fluke rather than a caudal fin or tail? Awesome pictures! I hope to squeeze in one more trip out on Resurrection Bay looking for marine life.

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  2. Wow these pictures and the video are exquisite. Big Fan!

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