I had heard that the St. Lawrence is one of the few places where one can observe blue whales, even from shore! On August 20, I spotted one of these giants for the first time. Rumours of large spouts sighted by captains offshore had put a bug in my ear. However, I had no reason to expect this encounter, since offshore excursions are always completely unpredictable!
On the afternoon of August 20, we leave Les Escoumins wharf. After a few minutes on the water, we spot a blue whale in the distance initiating a dive. Although we are more than 400 m away from the animal, I can make out its mottled colouration through the lens of the camera. As each animal’s colour pattern is unique, it is highly useful to researchers when it comes to recognizing an individual by means of photo-identification. Thus I attempt to take a picture, despite the distance between us. We subsequently tried to match the animal with one of the individuals in the catalogue, but to no avail. The blue whale now vanished below the water surface, I’m still in shock at seeing this behemoth when a second spout in close proximity draws our attention. This is Gaspar, a humpback, whom I hadn’t seen for almost a week.
For the first time this summer, I had the privilege of observing and photographing three whale species during my workday, as it ended with the sighting of a fin whale off of Tadoussac. The smooth sea even allowed us to clearly observe through the water the dazzling white colouring of the right side of the fin whale’s jaw.
Since the beginning of the summer, I was lucky enough to observe several St. Lawrence whales in their natural environment. Each and every encounter with these fascinating animals leaves me amazed, as if I were seeing these gigantic beasts for the very first time.
Marie-Pier Poulin joined the GREMM team this year. As part of the photo-census program of large rorquals in the Marine Park, she collects photos and data on board tour boats. She also shares this information with the editorial team of Whales Online.