ORIGINALLY POSTED 2008. UPDATED 2018
Spy Hopping – Karen MacKay
Here are some “odds and ends” of Killer whale records from the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine. This beautiful whale is definitely rare. As a matter of fact, the scholars among us have insufficient data to establish any position on the status of Orcinus orca in this area. Anyway here are a few interesting records and stories. If you have something to add please post your records in comments.
1950 – 1 stranded at Economy, Minas Basin, Nova Scotia (Sergeant, D.E. and H.D. Fisher, The Smaller Cetacea of Eastern Canadian Waters. J.Fish.Res.Bd.Canada, 14(1), 1957)
1950’s – Fisherman reported a Killer Whale followed him into harbour on Grand Manan Island, NB. Art MacKay, Manuscript. Mammals of Grand Manan, NB
2001 – Pods of 5 – 25 Orca whales were spotted during the summer of 2000 off of Grand Manan and the southern end of Campobello Island. It may be the many seals found in the area that attracted the Orcas. Swim at your own risk! Quoddyloop.com
2005 – Killer whales entertain Gulf of Maine fishermen – Condensed Commercial Fisheries News by Peter K. Prybot
April 17 – The dragger crews of the Gloucester-based 67′ David James and the 55′ Deborah Ann, out of Portland, experienced a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with a pair of 16 to 18-foot killer whales in the Wilkinson Basin area during the first week of April. On April 17, the crew of the 42′ Misty Dawn II saw the whale pair on Harvey Blacks Ridge.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen killer whales in my 30 years of fishing,” said Capt. Mark Roberts of South Portland. His Deborah Ann was towing when, “I first saw the fins following alongside. I thought they must be pilot whales at first.” Roberts went on deck with his camera and shot some dramatic pictures of the killer whales as they followed the Deborah Ann. Shortly afterwards on deck, an excited Roberts banged on the side of the vessel, and the animals came right up to it.
“They were around me for 15 to 20 minutes. They were beautiful animals,” said Roberts, who stressed, “Nobody loves nature more than the guys (fishermen) out there.”
April 2 – Steve Perkins, captain and owner of the David James, first spotted a dorsal fin breaking water amongst a school of porpoises about a quarter mile away. Porpoises commonly follow fishing vessels in the area, especially when draggers haul back their nets and fish drop out through the codend, making easy meals for them.
Perkins and crew John Mione and Joe Vaiarella, (are) both of Gloucester. Mione shouted, “Joe, what the heck are they? They don’t belong here!” I had to look at them five times, and then I realized these were killer whales,” said Vaiarella. “The whales were playing away, having a good time. A few times they arced right out of the water like nothing at all. Other times they turned over on their sides slightly and looked right at us,” recalled Vaiarella.
2006 – June – A Grand Manan fisherman spotted a breaching Orca whale (killer whale) off Grand Manan. A subsequent breaching was observed by other area fishermen.
2007 – Present – Additional records exist through this period which are mentioned in the following articles.
2014 – We met Old Thom….a lone sea wolf in the Bay of Fundy!! QuoddyLink
Let me start from the beginning, it was a beautiful October day and our plan was to run out towards our offshore area, off the Wolves Bank, maybe towards Whale Cove, Grand Manan to search for fin whales with hopes of maybe humpbacks. So we headed out and we … didn’t see any whales. So we talked to our passengers, letting them know that if we continued out into the open Bay of Fundy the trip would be longer (5-6 hours in total). With everyone game and adventurous spirits we headed out, past Swallowtail to search for humpbacks and possibly even North Atlantic right whales. About 6 miles past North Head Nick saw a blow…and a tail..it was a humpback! We slowed down and we waited for the humpback to resurface and something caught my eye….my breath caught and I knew John, our captain and the owner of Quoddy Link, saw the same thing….was it what I thought…or maybe it was a fluke of a right whale on it’s side. I told Nick to watch 10 o’clock position with us and then a 6 foot dorsal fin started breaking the surface and I screamed….an orca!! It was Old Thom, an adult male orca who has been seen in the Bay of Fundy in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014 as well as off Roseway Basin in 2009. A killer whale sighting in the Bay of Fundy is incredibly rare and yes, they are typically seen in family groups, or pods, but Old Thom is somewhat of a loner. We spent over 30 minutes with Old Thom as well as the humpbacks.
Photos of Old Thom
On September 18, Ol’ Tom the killer whale was spotted off the coast of Nova Scotia—a sighting that was remarkable not because of Tom himself, but because of who he was with. The orca was swimming with a group of twenty to thirty dolphins.