My week at whale camp

By Will Grojean

July 16, 2016

8:15 a.m.

Lambert Airport – St. Louis

Since I was six years old, I have loved marine biology. A few years ago, my mom read an article about a camp off the coast of Maine in Nova Scotia where you get to see whales and other marine life, and I decided right then and there to start saving my money. For three years, I saved every dollar of my Christmas and birthday money, and money I made from my lemonade stands, until I had over $1,000 saved. Today I am 10. Today I leave for whale camp.

I took two flights, leaving from St. Louis and stopping in Detroit, until finally I made it to Maine. There, I was picked up by a man named Sean who is a counselor at whale camp. There are 16 kids meeting us to head to the camp this week. After a long drive, we crossed into Canada and took on a ferryboat to an island called Grand Manan Island. This is where Whale Camp is. Grand Manan Island is located in the Bay of Fundy, which is between Maine and Nova Scotia. The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world, which means it pulls in a lot of marine life. I’m lucky enough that I get to study it.

July 17, 2016

The island is sandy and beautiful. Our dorm rooms are nice and they are warm and comfortable. Canada is cold even in the summer. I have to wear a jacket when we first get there. The first day we got to go tide pooling. This is when you search for creatures in pools of water left behind after the tide goes out. We found crabs, rock gunnels, whelk snails and mussels, and collected them to be put in an aquarium back at the whale camp dorm. I had the best find! I found a crab that had thousands and thousands of eggs on its bottom side! I had to put it back because we aren’t supposed to put things that are pregnant in the tank. The eggs could be harmed by the other specimens.

At night we played capture the flag. There are children here from all around the world. My roommates are 10 and 11 and they are from Kentucky. There’s even a boy here from the Ukraine. I met a girl named Simone who lives in Manhattan. We are becoming close friends.

July 18, 2016

Today we took a boat to Machias Seal Island. The boat trip took about an hour and a half. The water was choppy and I felt seasick. But it was all worth it. As we approached the island, I saw thousands and thousands of Atlantic Puffins and Arctic Terns. Once we were on shore, we entered small square buildings called puffin blinds where we could observe the puffins without scaring them away. Puffins look like penguins that can fly, and their bills are the prettiest part of them. The most interesting part is the sound they make. They “moo” like cows.

On the way back from seeing the puffins, we saw a small island that was covered with seals. There were gray seals and harbor seals. The harbor seals had faces that looked like puppies. The gray seals had horse faces. Most of the seals were lazy in the sun, but we did see a few who were active. It’s not easy for them to move around because of how their bodies are made.

July 19, 2016

Today is our first day of whale watching. I am so excited! We boarded a whale watching boat early in the morning and went about an hour into the bay. We saw two types of whales on the first day: a humpback whale and a finback whale, which is the second largest animal on Earth after the blue whale. The humpback whale did something called tail slapping where it lifted its tail high out of the water. The humpbacks got really close to our boat. They are the more friendly species. It was an amazing sight to see. We saw multiple finbacks together on this trip. They are more shy of the boats and didn’t come as close, but we could see them swimming and spraying in the distance. Whales are so large it’s hard to believe. Finbacks can get up to 70 feet long. The whales we saw were even bigger than our very large boat. The ocean is amazing!

Back at Grand Manan in the afternoon, we went exploring in a creek. We used nets to gather specimens from the water and used field guides to identify the small life we found in the water. We found many may fly nymphs, dragonfly nymphs and various other water insects. We also talked about the pollution in water. Some of the water can be poisonous and we used special testing strips to see how polluted the water samples were. The water we tested was very clean. It was almost completely unpolluted.

July 20, 2016

We started the day with kayak trip! I’ve been looking forward this the whole time! We took two-person kayaks into the bay. We paddled along the coast of the island and looked at the landscape around the camp. Paddling was easier than I thought it would be. We didn’t see any whales when we were kayaking, but the camp counselors said that the friendly whales do approach the kayaks often. Sometimes they really surprise the kayakers!

In the afternoon, we did our second whale watch. This time we saw two humpback whales swimming near the boat. The humpbacks have bumpy skin. They are shiny and black. I heard the sound of them singing!

Back at camp, we did a plankton study. Using a special plankton net, we gathered water specimens and then examined them under a microscope. It was amazing to see how much life there is in the water that we don’t see! We mostly saw copapods and flounder larvae. Copapods look like the character “Plankton” from SpongeBob, and flounder larvae look like amoeba.

July 21, 2016

Today is the last day of camp. We packed up our belongings this morning and cleaned our dorm rooms. I am sad to be leaving. I have made so many friends and I will miss them all so much.

Tonight we had our closing campfire and talent show. We sang songs, and did skits. I was in a skit called “I’ve Fallen and I can’t Get Up!”

My time at whale camp was one of my favorite times of my life. I will never forget all the good times I had and all the friends I made. I learned so much about marine life that I didn’t already know from my reading. I would love to go back someday.

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