Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Maine; Bar Harbor Lighthouse Tour and Whale Watch

     Welcome back to Bar Harbor Maine where we have an awesome day lined up.  This is the third article on this area, if you have not read the previous two, I suggest you do. Click Here for article #1 and Click Here for article #2.

     We are back with the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company, heading out on two excursions.  The first is to visit several of the area's lighthouses, and on the second we will head out to sea to spot some whales.

     Bar Harbor is quiet in the early morning - this place will be full of traffic and pedestrians in a few hours.

     In the early hours the fog lurks just off the land as though waiting for any excuse to creep onto the shores.  No wonder there are so many ghost stories in this area.

     For the lighthouse cruise we are heading out on Bay King III.  The  boat has two observation decks and is quite comfortable.

     Our Captain on this trip is 38 year old Chad Stevens, who is spending his 10th year here piloting boats.

     And our guide is Gene Torbeck, a retired naval officer.

     Back in 2000, Gene's three children started a company called Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers, a unique puppet troupe that entertains children with unique puppets and choreography.  Gene has that typical wry sense of humor so common in Maine, making the trip fairly light and fun. 

     The sign outside the bathroom is ominous for those of us who smoke.

    The puffin is a local bird specie that is popular with photographers.  We head out of the harbor, passing the Porcupine Islands.

         Heading south out of the harbor, we pass numerous homes and towns along the coast of Mount Desert Island.  One of the island's harbors is Southwest Harbor.

     Then on to the first stop.  This is Bear Island Lighthouse.

     A lighthouse was here in 1839; this one was built 50 years later in 1889.  A private party owns the lighthouse and has spent much time and effort refurbishing it over the last few years.

     Then we are on to the Great Duck Island lighthouse.  

     This one marks the entrance to Blue Hill Bay.  Gene shares all kinds of great facts and stories about the area.  It seems that this lighthouse keeper held a sort of record for Maine's lighthouse keepers - 17 children.  Not much else to do on an island a couple of miles out to sea I guess.

     The 237 acre island and the lighthouse are owned by the College of the Atlantic, which has students conduct various research experiments here.

     Next up is an old life-saving station.

     This is very similar to the one we saw at the abandoned settlement on Portsmouth Island NC.  This too is kept as a museum which folks who can catch a tour boat can explore.

     We passed Baker Island Lighthouse, which I didn't get a good photo of, and then headed over to Winter Harbor Lighthouse.

     This lighthouse was built in 1856 and is a private residence today.  The lighting made for a few good shots of it.

     And then back past Egg Island at the mouth of Bar Harbor.

      This lighthouse was built in 1875 and is unique because the light is built on the top of the keeper's house.  This was because there wasn't enough space on the island to build them separately.

     That is a quick compilation of a three and a half hour trip.  Once a year the company runs a full day excursion that runs clear up into Canadian waters and visits 17 Maine lighthouses - that is over a quarter of the 65 total.

     We arrive back at Bar Harbor and jump right on the Friendship V for the whale watching excursion.

     This boat is eager to run.  It is a catamaran, and has a water jet propulsion system in place of the more typical propellers.

     2,500 gallons of water a second pumped out by four engines generating over 5,000 horsepower - the boat just eagerly sits up and glides out to sea at better than 30 miles an hour.  The boat is equipped with a full snack bar and large comfortable lounges.  It also has almost 1000 feet of railing alongside the decks.  We zoom back past egg island with its seal colony.

     Quickly we are passing the channel markers that point the way out to the open sea.

     In short order the land slips over the horizon.

     We are heading out to a shelf on the Gulf of Maine, an area that hosts much aquatic diversity.  Our guide is the lead naturalist with Bar Harbor Whale Watch - Zack Klyver.

     46 year old Zack, who studied environmental science and education at the nearby College of the Atlantic is part encyclopedia of knowledge and part prize-fight announcer.  He has a way of getting the passengers whipped up and involved in watching for whales.

     The Gulf of Maine has underwater banks the turn away the warm northward flowing waters of the Gulf Stream.  This allows the cooler waters from the Labrador current to hug the land.  The net result is that the waters are much richer in microscopic life.  This in turn works up the food chain and makes for an area flush with marine life.   


     Veteran whale watchers bring binoculars - but if you don't there are some on the boat that you can borrow.   As the boat makes slight course adjustments, trailing waves create patterns that novices call out as whale plumes.  Zack refers to them as "wake whales."  We pass numerous types of sea birds, and encounter a few sun fish along the way. 

     It's hard to see it down in the water, but a sunfish looks like it is missing the trunk of its body.  Here is an online photo.

     The coloration is different, but you get an idea of the size.  These are also occasionally called moonfish.

     Before long we spot a whale.  Sharp eyed folks call out the direction and the boat hums within photo range.

     The company observes a strict set of guidelines for approaching and observing whales.  Before long the whale takes a dive, and in the process exposes the underside of his tail.

      Lying about the tables in the lounge are identification books.  Each whale has a unique pattern of markings on its tail, and this one turns out to be a visitor who hasn't been spotted here in a couple of years.

    The whales are named as soon as they separate from their mothers, and this one was named Blako.  (I hope I have the spelling correct.)  Back in the nineties he was a lot more the frisky teenager and would cavort about the boats.  Today he is all business, and we get to watch him surface and dive numerous times.

     Along for the trip is Walter Churchill, the official photographer for the company.

     If you look them up on Facebook, he takes most of the images that post - and he gets some great shots.  He is a fun guy who does things like take school class photos for kids who don't have the money to get them.

     And the puffins - I have been jonesing for a puffin since we left this morning - seven hours ago.

     These were a bit out of the camera lens's reach - hopefully as we continue to move south in Maine we can find a spot that we can get some good shots.

     Before you know it the whole day has passed and we are heading back to Mount Desert Island.  A big thanks for all the help to the kind folks at Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company !!

    Before we leave the island, I wanted to touch on a couple of things.  This is the library in Bar Harbor - a beautiful building. 

    There are several museums on the island that we didn't get to visit, and a dozen or so villages left unexplored.

     There are also a lot of talented artists here.

     Just outside of town is what used to be a car ferry terminal that ran up to Nova Scotia Canada.

     It now sits abandoned.  I heard several reasons for its final demise - including the difficulties added to cross border travel following the 911 incident.

     Before 911, college students from all over the world came here to work the summers in the restaurants and hotels.  Since, it is primarily Jamaicans who come here six months a year.

    One of them I met is Natesha, who like many of them work several part time jobs for the season.

     Most stay in a nearby town called Trenton.  The city and the local businesses run shuttles back and forth for them each day.

     And today's "Faces in the Crowd" belongs to Chris Brunick.

     Chris is the manager of Bar Harbor Beer Works - a great little restaurant that let me use their wi-fi for a week.

  When you get to Bar Harbor please stop in for a meal.  Many thanks to you guys.

    And today's parting shot, spotted in a local church parking lot:

     I was hoping to find a enterprising local youth in the "Dashboard Jesus" business, but none were apparent.

Click Here if you can contribute a few dollars to help me with this effort - it would be a big help at the moment.  Click Here to email me.

Make it a great day !!

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