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Newfoundland and Labrador is famous for its unparalleled whale viewing. The world’s largest concentrations of humpback whales migrate to our waters every summer to gorge themselves in our nutrient rich waters after a long winter down south. In addition to this common baleen whale, Newfoundland inshore waters are also the home of minke whales, finback whales, white-beaked dolphin, porpoise, and over a dozen identified pods of orca.
The humpback whale is the most common
species of whale found in our waters,and is the most likely to be seen on an Iceberg Quest boat tour. While they rank as a mid-sized baleen whale, they are still one of the biggest creatures on earth, growing to up to 50 feet long and weighing 30 tonnes! To get to this size they eat, ironically enough, some of the smallest creatures in the ocean. They do this with their bristle-like baleens that are able to trap even the smallest crustaceans.
Humpbacks are incredibly intelligent and playful. They are fully aware when a boat approaches them, and are usually curious enough to investigate. They’ll even put on a show, jumping into the air (breaching) and slapping their tails on the water’s surface.
Minke whales are also common, but they tend to be shy in comparison to the spectacular acrobatics of the humpback whales. They are easily identifiable by their diminutive size, being the second smallest baleen whale — that’s still over 20 feet long! When coming up for air, they will display their backs and dorsal fins, but rarely their tails. While more timid than the extrovert humpbacks, it is not uncommon for the curious minke to make an appearance and stick its narrow head above the surface.
A variety of species of dolphins and porpoise may also be encountered. The most common is the white-beaked dolphin, identifiable by its dark-grey color with a broad light grey stripe. This is visible if they slow down long enough for you to catch a glimpse! They are very energetic and fast, easily keeping pace with the Iceberg Quest vessels.
While out on the water, you may see a grey-coloured whale on the surface. Once it surfaces, it seems like it keeps going, and going, and going! That means you just saw a fin whale, the second largest whale on earth! Much more commonly spotted in our waters than its larger blue whale cousin, the fin, or finback, will shock you with its incredible size — much bigger than dinosaurs when they roamed the earth!
You may also have the privilege to spot a pod of orca, more commonly known as killer whales. These beautiful creatures are actually the largest species of porpoise. In recent years, orca sightings have increased, particularly by guests on tour boats! Scientists are mystified as to the cause of this increase: have local populations of orca changed their feeding habits, are they reacting to climate change, or is there some other reason?