Calvin, the right whale who holds a special
interest for whale watchers
in this part of the province, is seen in this
photo taken last week in the Bay of Fundy.
Calvin, calf make it safely to Bay of Fundy
BY MAC TRUEMAN
Picture your cat
walking her kitten all the way to Saint John from Hampton, down the middle of
This will give you an idea of the relief that
marine scientists felt last week when a North Atlantic right whale named Calvin
showed up off Grand Manan with her calf.
the last time Calvin and the calf were seen, early in the morning of April 29,
they were steaming along the Cape Cod Canal, apparently on their way north from
their Florida wintering ground.
This man-made water
highway is a shortcut for ships traveling between Boston and New York.
It stretches behind Cape Cod and connects Cape Cod Bav to
Buzzard Bav, a distance of 28 kilometres - the same as the distance from
Hampton to downtown Saint John.
And like a highway,
there's not much room here for ships to veer when they come across something
that shouldn't be there.
"Of all places," said Moira
Brown, senior scientist in right whale research for the New England Aquarium,
which is centred in Boston.
These were not the first of
these rare and endangered right whales to wander into this wrong place. The
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who operate the canal, usually close it down to
traffic as soon a whale is detected here, Ms. Brown said.
In fact, a U.S. Coast Guard vessel is usually brought in
from the Sandwich, Mass., station to stand by the errant whale and keep
recreational boats away from it.
But this time, the
authorities didn't know about these unauthorized travelers.
The two were spotted and photographed by an amateur
photographer who had set up his tripod on a canal-side hiking trail to capture
The photographer e-mailed the photographs to
the Aquarium, where scientists quickly identified Calvin from the pattern of
white callosity markings on her head, which are as unique to each right whale
as fingerprints are to humans.
But he sent the pictures
two days after the sighting - too late for the ships to be turned back. Calvin
and her calf were never seen again - until they were photographed and
identified by a New England Aquarium crew on the Grand Manan Basin last
"We were extremely relieved to see her,
looking just fine up in the Bay of Fundy," Ms. Brown said. "We've been a bit
nervous for her over the last three months."
time, the Corps of Engineers has developed signs and pamphlets for users of the
hiking trails and recreation areas along the waterway, a spokeswoman for the
park rangers there said. They urge anybody to phone authorities immediately if
they see a whale in the canal.
Although right whales have
been known to travel the Cape Cod Canal from end to end, it is not known if
Calvin and her calf did this, or if the two turned back at some point, Ms.
Ms. Brown spoke from a New England Aquarium
research station in Nova Scotia, from which her team has been surveying right
whales in the Roseway Basin, on the very southern tip of that province.
It is one of the two right whale gathering areas in
Canada - the other being off Grand Manan in the Bay of Fundy.
In the four days they have been conducting the survey,
they have identified fewer than a dozen whales so far. But it's still early in
the season, she said.
Lisa Conger, project manager for
the Aquarium's whale research team in Lubec, Me., said the 70 to 90 whales her
team has encountered off Grand Manan is a good turn out, and most of these
animals are in good health.
But of the 28 mother-calf
pairs that her group has documented since last winter, only nine have shown up
in the Bay of Fundy so far.
"It doesn't mean something
has happened to the remainder.
Often, mothers don't bring
their calves to the Bay of Fundy."
The Aquarium probably
won't give a name to Calvin's calf until much later in the fall - until
scientists are sure they have enough of a description on record to identify it.
"I'm sure a lot of people expect us to name the calf
Hobbs, but I'm not sure that will happen " We'll see."