Killer whale still in Bay of Fundy

Old Thom spotted off Boar’s Head, Long Island

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
Published on October 4, 2012

Christine Callaghan of Pirate's Cove Whale & Seabird Cruises photographed Old Thom about 12 km off Boar’s Head on Wednesday, Oct. 3.

Christine Callaghan

The killer whale is still here.

Two whale watch boats from Long Island saw ‘Old Thom” yesterday, Wednesday, Oct. 3 about 12 km off Boars Head.

Judging by a distinctive notch on his dorsal fin, this is the same killer whale photographed breaching off Brier Island on Sept. 18 and featured on the cover of the Sept. 27 Digby County Courier.

[Related: Killer whale sighted off Brier Island ]

Christine Callaghan had never seen a killer whale in 11 years as a guide with Pirate's Cove Whale & Seabird Cruises of Tiverton.

On the way out Wednesday afternoon some passengers asked her if they might see the killer whale they’d all heard about on the news.

Callaghan told them she hadn’t heard of any more sightings for about a week.

Then she heard different. Whale watchers on the New Brunswick side of the Bay of Fundy were talking on the radio to researcher Moira Brown about a lone killer whale over that way.

Brown is a senior scientist with the New England Aquarium who has spent the last 28 years studying right whales.

She was on the water Wednesday looking for right whales when she heard about the orca and went to see.

She said it was a big surprise.

“You see something break the water and then this huge dorsal fin keeps coming up,” she said by phone from Campobello. “It’s so great to see the whale is doing okay, he’s not skinny so he’s obviously finding something to eat, he’s surviving in an area a little bit different from where you’d normally expect to see them.”

She says the greatest concentrations of killer whales are north of here, off Newfoundland, near Greenland and in the Davis Strait.

She says killer whales are a very social species

but not enough is known about any whales to guess why this one is seen so often alone.

She actually saw Old Thom before, in 2009 off Clark’s Harbour.

The same whale was seen near Brier Island in 2010, near Grand Manan in 2011 and off Brier Island on Sept. 18 this year.

Brown says they saw the whale about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and it was headed south across the Bay of Fundy.

Although Callaghan heard the conversation with Brown and the New Brunswick whale watchers on the radio, she didn’t want to raise her passengers’ hopes.

They spent the afternoon quite far out in the Bay and were coming home late after watching finbacks.

As they neared Long Island they heard from another whale watch boat, Ocean Explorations Zodiac Whale Cruises of Tiverton, that they were watching Old Thom.

Callaghan says because it was so calm and glassy they could see the dorsal fin from a long distance.

“It was all so quiet and calm, he was gliding along so smoothly, it was just beautiful,” said Callaghan of her first orca sighting.

“That’s the wonderful thing about going out there. You just never know what you’re going to see.”