[A Whale Sounding in Witless Bay, Newfoundland]

Whale and Bird Watching in Newfoundland

A seat-mate on the aircraft taking us to St. John's, Newfoundland, had explained that there were many excellent bird and whale watching tours in this maritime province. On June 29, 1996, our host arranged for a 2 1/2 hour trip with Captain Murphy's Bird Island Boat Tours. They are located at Witless Bay which is approximately 32 kilometers (20 miles) south of St. John's. To get there, you can follow scenic Route 10 from St. John's or travel west on the Trans Canada Highway and turn south when you see the Witless Bay Line sign.

[Captain Murphy's Boat, the Pursuit]

A party of 17 people in all, including our 7 week old grandson, gathered at 10:00 am in the Witless Bay Restaurant, many of us slightly tired from singing countless Newfoundland folk tunes the evening before! We were also pleasantly surprised to learn that as we were in a party of more than 15 people, we all received a discount on the regular $20 per person fare. Captain Murphy has two vessels, the "Newfie Puffin" and the "Pursuit" and soon after we were all underway on the Pursuit. Our tour guide, a jolly Newfoundlander from the south coast, broke into a rousing song about the fishing lives of Maritimers. His singing enthusiasm was enough to overcome all of the sea going noise including the steady pounding of the big diesel engine. As well, his colourful descriptions of bird and whale habits and habitat were filled with liberal doses of unique Newfoundland humour!

[A Whale Sounding Near the Witless Bay Shoreline]

We were certainly not disappointed in the tour. Our Boat passed within meters of the three bird islands in Witless Bay, Great Island, Green Island and Gull Island. We must have seen thousands of sea birds, Puffins, Murres, Kittiwakes, Northern Gannets, Black Guillemots and of course, several species of gulls. We had just passed the last bird island when someone shouted "whale!" We steamed forward and soon there were whales all around us! Minkse, Humpback and Finback, the latter growing to as long as 27 meters (90 feet) and weighing as much as 64,000 kilograms (140,000 pounds). The Captain kept circling the Pursuit and we were treated to sightings of whales as close as 30 meters (100 feet) from the boat. We learned that the whales come to this area to feed on a small fish, the Capelin, which in late June and early July, spawns on the shores of the many coves and inlets of eastern Newfoundland.

After two hours of exciting bird and whale sightings (we must have seen 100 whales!) the Captain turned the Pursuit towards the Witless Bay anchorage. [Newfoundland Folk Tunes]

A young Newfoundland lady, in the best of local tradition, treated us to some lively folk tunes with her fiddle as we headed in, everyone well pleased with our memorable Atlantic trip!

There are many boat tour operators in Newfoundland offering services similar to the trip that we enjoyed. For more information, you can call Captain Murphy's Bird Island Boat Tours at 1-709-334-2002, Historical Harbours Boat Tours at 1-709-464-3355, Dee Jay Charters at 1-709-753-8687, Gatherall's Boat Tours at 1-709-334-2887 and O'Brien's Whale and Bird Tours at 1-709-753-4850.

Your comments are welcome at dhaaheim at telus dot net

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