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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
Telegraph-Journal
August 30/05

    Picture your cat walking her kitten all the way to Saint John from Hampton, down the middle of the road.
   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.
   That's because 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 sunrise.
   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 Wednesday.
    "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."
   Since that 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. Brown said.
   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."

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