MACHIAS SEAL ISLAND AND VISITING THE PUFFINS
Every week, campers get a unique opportunity to visit Machias Seal Island to observe puffins, arctic terns, razorbills, common murres and much more bird life. Machias Seal Island is about ten miles west of Grand Manan and is a small island with no inhabitants except the keepers of the lighhthouse. During the nesting season the island becomes home to thousands of pelagic bird species such as the Atlantic Puffin, the Razorbill Auk and Common and Arctic Terns. No matter where you stand on the island, you will see thousands of birds flying by.
The campers go to the island on the Days Catch where they are led by the fantastic Durlan Ingersoll and captain Peter Wilcox, both of whom contribute to a truly amazing experience for the campers. Both are ever so knowledgable about the birds and the waters in the area and are great with the students. Once at the island, the campers are able to observe the birds at really close range from bird blinds located all along the island.
Watching intently from the blind on Machias Seal Island
This is how close the campers get to the puffins
BECOMING A MARINE BIOLOGIST
As part of the Whale Camp experience, the campers are not just taken to see the whales, but are taught techniques and lessons in how to study whales and the importance of such studies. Every week, the campers go out to sea on two trips, once on the Days Catch, a converted lobster vessel, and once on the Elsie Menota, a sailing vessel.
While out on these trips, the group take turns to spot for whales and other marine life, and fill in 'sightings' forms to document whether or not they observed any marine life in that area at that time. The sightings forms are very similar to those used by marine researchers in the Bay and throughout the world. On each form, campers fill in the time, date, longitude and latitude, conditions of the weather and the ocean and any creatures seen and their behaviour when observed, for example foraging, travelling or socialising.
Once back at camp, the campers are taught more about the importance of such records and undergo tasks using the data that they have collected. They are shown how every piece of information that they have collected is essential for the long-term research and conservation of many species of whales and also, how the ecology and location and tides of the Bay of Fundy are so important in influencing where animals are.
From the information gathered by whale campers over several years, trends are evident that the campers can note and begin to explain and discuss, for instance, trends related to the location of certain whales feeding at a particular stage of the tidal cycle. It is great for the campers when they learn these trends and can then relate them to their own whale watching experience here at Whale Camp.
Constructing Grand Manan in the sand as part of learning about the areas around the island and how they are influenced by the tides and dictate where and when the whales will be around.
LEARNING ABOUT THE NATURAL HISTORY OF GRAND MANAN ISLAND
While the students are with us at Whale Camp, is it not just the marine life that they have the opportunity to learn about. Grand Manan Island is a very diverse island with a whole host of really interesting natural history and culture, from the tide pools that are influenced by the huge water movements in the bay to the fisheries that has shaped the culture and development of the islands peoples.
The geology of the island is also unique, with many factors acting over many years to make the island what it has become and is today. Many parts of Grand Manan's historic and geologic past are retained on the island are provide excellent examples of how the island was formed and providing a glimpse of what life used to be like here.
FISHERIES ON GRAND MANAN
Fishing on Grand Manan has long been a very important part of the islands culture and development. For over 200 years, the island has been inhabited by those who relied on the oceans around the coast and in the bay for fishing. Many on the island still rely on the traditional methods of smoking herring and gathering dulse, these economic livelihoods have defined the island community for hundreds of years.
At Whale Camp we give the students a glimpse into the islands past and how this has shaped the island to this day. There are many remnants of Grand Manan's fishing history still remaining on and around the island, in the shape of herring smokehouses, fishing weirs all along the coastline, and the many boats in the docks.
One of the traditional herring weirs, located at the north end of the island. The herring weirs are a traditonal way of harvesting herring, using the natural behaviours of these fish. There are many active herring weirs still in use along the coastline of Grand Manan and New Brunswick.
TIDEPOOLINGThe tides of the Bay of Fundy are among the highest in the world, and flood into and out of the Bay every 6 hours, thus two tide cycles a day engulf the shoreline and rise up high on the cliffs of the island. On several of the islands great beaches, the tide rises enough that large areas of the beach are completely submerged for large parts of the day. This creates tidal zonation and thus gives rise a large variety of creatures utilising the different habitats and niches created by these tides.
Displaying some rather large seaweeds
Learning about the water cycle in a unique way!
Creating water-sheds and building communities on the banks of rivers!GEOLOGY OF GRAND MANANStanding atop the Hole in the Wall. The Hole in the Wall is a unique natural sculpture, caused by the tides of the Bay of Fundy. The waters over time, have carved out the softer rocks from this outcrop of rocks, leaving a large hole in the rocks surrounded by harder rocks. At high tides, kayakers can paddle through, and at low tide the hole is accesible to hike down to. The hike out to the hole in the wall was one of the most popular hikes this summer, and the view of the hole and Whale Cove Bay provided a great place to stay for lunch.An example of some of the geologic processes that help define Grand Manan is the columnar jointing that can be seen at various locations around the island
CETACEAN SPECIES OF THE BAY OF FUNDY
There are five predominant species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) known to be present in the Bay of Fundy. These are the harbour porpoise, the north Atlantic right whale, the minke whale, the fin whale and the humpback whale.MINKE WHALES
Throughout the summer of 2009 here at Whale Camp, the campers were treated to amazing encounters with all 5 species, from both the Days Catch and the Elsie Menota whale watching trips, and also from the land.
It was a fantastic opportunity for all the campers to learn so much about the diversity in the Bay and to experience these amazing creatures up close. From learning about these animals in the classroom to seeing them and putting into practise their newly aquired knowledge and skills in identification, 2009 was a very promising year for whale education! The campers also learned all about the great tides of the Bay of Fundy and how influential these are in predicting where the whales will be at particular times of the day and being able to explain why the whales are where they are when we see them.
The minke whale is one of the smallest of the baleen whales and is seen commonly in the waters around Grand Manan. One of the best viewing points for these animals is from Long Eddy Point up at the north of the island. Minke whales were seen regularly throughout the season.
The students and campers had many close encounters with all the different cetaceans of the Bay of Fundy this summer. Here, those on the Elsie Menota are treated to a minke whale foraging near the boat up at the north end of the island as the tide turned.
Minke whales commonly feed up at the north end of the island during the peak flood tides (when the waters are flooding into the bay, leading to high tides). Here, the waters that go around the east and west of the island meet and mix, churning up nutrients from the sea floor and creating an area of very high productivity.
NORTH ATLANTIC RIGHT WHALESThe north Atlantic right whale is the rarest of the large cetaceans in the world. The population was seriously depleted by commercial whaling and today the remaining animals, although heavily protected, are still facing many threats including increased boat traffic in their critical habitat areas.
While out on the Elsie Menota, we are proveliged enough to have onboard Laurie Murison, a renowned right whale researcher. Having Laurie around provides a fantastic opportunity for the campers to learn as much as possible about this population of whales, and also learn about what has been done and what is being done to protect them and try to restore the population. At present, there are thought to be around 300 north Atlantic right whales left in the world.Right whales show their tail flukes like this when they are taking a longer dive. The peduncle, or tail stock, is one of the strongest muscles in the whales body and is used to enable the animal to get deeper underwater. Many whales, including the humpback whale (see below) take a series of shorter dives at the surface to replensih their oxygen stores in preparation for a longer dive.
Humpback whales are one of the most fascinating whale species to many people, notably due to their agility and behaviour at the surface. This summer we were fortunate enough to witness humpback whales breaching, where they launch their whole body out of the water and smack down on the surface, tail lobbing, where they smack their tails on the water surface and flipper/ pectoral slapping.
Tail slapping is thought to be used as a sound production mechanism for the whale underwater. Sound has different properties underwater than in air, it travels faster and further, thus the loudness of the slapping can be used as an indicator of the whales size and maybe dominance.
Fin whales are the second largest animals in the world, after the blue whale. They are seen commonly in the Bay of Fundy in the summer when they come and utilise the productivity caused by the huge tides. Groups of as many as 10 fin whales were seen regularly this summer, a grouping unique to the Bay of Fundy. Fin whales are usually much more elusive and rarely seen in groups greater than three animals.
The blow of the fin whale is used to spot groups of whales from quite a distance. A blow like those of the fin whales is produced when the animals come to the surface to breathe.HARBOUR PORPOISE
The harbour porpoise is the smallest of the cetacean species to be found in the Bay of Fundy. These small little creatures were seen regularly throughout the summer and became a massive favourite of the campers. On nearly every whale watching trip we were met by groups of harbour porpoise.For more information about the marine mammals of the Bay of Fundy, follow this link to the Grand Manan Whale and Seabirf Research Station.
WHITEHEAD ISLAND AND THE INDIANA JONES TRAIL
Whitehead Island is part of the Grand Manan archipelago and can be reached by a short twenty minute boat ride from Ingalls Head harbour on Grand Manan. We try to take the students across to the island every week, mainly so that they can enjoy one of the most fun and challenging hikes, appropriately called the 'Indiana Jones hike' due to the obstacles and themed dress that some of the staff choose to wear and the scenarios they act out!
Mike, the boys dorm counsellor working his way through the trail
Uh-oh, we detect a slight problem with the ferry to White Head.... (this is not a problem in any way, we like to entertain the campers!)