When the weather is warm enough – between May and October – whales will swim from the North Atlantic into the Gulf of St Lawrence, and upstream into the St Lawrence river. They get about as far as Tadoussac. At this point, the river is still very wide. Wide enough even for blue whales.
When it gets colder, the whales return to the ocean, but from May until October, Tadoussac is host to whales – and several companies stationed there organise whale watching trips.
I started a 4-month lab project in Quebec City in October 2000, so at the very end of whale season some other Dutch students and I went on a day trip to Tadoussac.
You can book a whale watching cruise, on a nice ship, where you see the whales from a distance, and from above. We picked a more adventurous option, and booked a trip on a little Zodiac boat. From a Zodiac, you see the whales at eye level, and they get closer. You also get a lot more wet…
Because it was already October, the whales had retreated further toward the sea, and it took the little Zodiac quite a while to get to the point where the whales were.
Now, the thing with whale watching trips is that they can never guarantee that you see any whales at all, and this far into the season we were told that we might not see any.
But we did!
We saw lots of different kinds of whales, including the largest mammal – a blue whale! Altogether, the St Lawrence is home to about 13 different kinds of whale, and we saw about 5 or 6 different types that day.
It was very difficult to take pictures of them, and I didn’t have a digital camera yet, but I managed to get pictures of some parts of whales. Not the iconic tail, but one does have a visible back fin, at least.
We had a whale of a time (*groan*) but if I ever do this again I think I’ll aim for the warmer part of the season, because getting soaked in October is not entirely enjoyable. It was more than worth it, though!
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