My family had been planning a vacation to the East Coast for over a year. On August 24th, 2010, seven of us left for a two-week road trip, crammed into a ten-passenger van. We spent most of the time in the states of New Hampshire and Maine. After seeing everything we wanted to in New Hampshire, we headed for the coast. We arrived in Acadia National Park on Thursday of the first week.
I had been looking forward to going on a whale watch. The anticipation would have been considered cruelty if the outcome hadn’t been the most amazing day of my life.
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It was only a twenty-minute drive from the campground to the small town of Bar Harbor. The streets were already busy with tourists. Where the road met the bay, a building emerged with a sign that read Bar Harbor Whale Watching Co. Behind it the ocean was calm and inviting. I bolted from the van, eager to board the boat.
The ship, The Friendship 5, took us out into the Frenchman Bay. We briskly picked up speed, the wind whipping ferociously as we cut through the water. The cold seeped through our coats and chilled us to the bone. Some went inside the cabin to warm up, but I couldn’t bring myself to miss a minute of staring out at the water as we flew out of the bay.
Along the way I scanned the surface for any movement. And then I saw it. Far in distance, something broke the still surface. I grabbed the binoculars hopping to catch a glimpse. The tour guide said they were porpoises. Soon we saw more pods of porpoises and then the heads of harbor seals out looking of food.
The boat soon reached the whales’ feeding grounds, 30 miles off the coast. It was the spray from a blowhole that alerted us to their position. The boat pulled up close enough to see the white of a humpback whale’s flipper under the water. Humpback whales can get up to 60 feet long. That meant something the size of a school bus was swimming next to us. Every now and then its spout would rise above the surface and it would take a breath. Then its back began to arch preparing to dive. The broad tail rose above the surface, water dripping of its leathery skin before it slipped away. The only proof that the enormous creature had been there at all was what they call a footprint, a slight disturbance of the water where its tail fin came down on the water and vanished underneath.
We watched several humpback whales in the area rise to the surface and then disappear into the depths of the ocean. Sadly, our tour aboard the Friendship 5 had to come to a close. I was thinking in my head how awesome it would have been to see a breech. Moments before we were to head back in, one of the humpback whales became exceptionally active. In a split second we were able to witness a tail breech. As the tail struck the surface creating a tremendous splash, a soft squeal escaped me. Chills spread throughout my body, and it was no longer because of the cold. That was the most awe-striking thing I had seen.
We returned to port with that lasting image like a footprint in my mind. Our tour guide said we had a rare day, with the perfect weather and so many whale sightings. I felt blessed to be able to have such a great experience.
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