Orca gives Whale Watchers Unusual Thrill in Bay of Fundy

 The following article was originally published in The Chronicle Herald, the Nova Scotia Provincial newspaper on Thursday, September 20th. Written by Staff Reporter, Clare Mellor, please click here to link to the original article. Special thanks to Penny, of Mariner Cruises Whale and Seabird Tours, located in Briar Island, Nova Scotia, for the fantastic photo!

Photo credit: Penny, of Mariner Cruises Whale and Seabird Tours, Briar Island, Nova Scotia

“Orca Gives Watchers Thrills
It was like hitting the whale-watching jackpot.

An orca, or killer whale, not commonly seen in Nova Scotia waters, put on an hour-long show Tuesday for a whale-watching tour boat off Brier Island.

“It was a pretty amazing sight to see,” Roy Small, who captains the Island Link for Welcome Aboard Whale Watching Tours on Brier Island, said Wednesday.

“Everybody was just ecstatic, including (the crew). It was a very, very, good day.”

The last reported orca sighting in the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia was about two years ago, Small said.

“This is the very first time I’ve seen one,” he said.

Small, his crew and roughly 10 passengers had been on the water for three hours Tuesday and had already been treated to sightings of several humpbacks, a fin whale that was surface-feeding, a minke whale, dolphins and porpoises.

The boat was about 12 kilometres northwest of Brier Island watching a group of about six humpbacks when a passenger spotted an unusual fin nearby.

Crew member Tania Campbell was up on the bow when she heard Small shout.

“All I heard was, ‘Holy smokes. I think it’s an orca!’” Campbell said Wednesday.

Small said an orca’s dorsal fin is very distinctive.

“It is about three feet high,” he said. “There is no mistaking it.”

He said the male orca measured 7.5 to nine metres and was travelling alone.

Small, who has also been a lobster fisherman for 22 years, said he has not done much reading on orcas and wasn’t sure what to expect.

“He was really friendly. I was really surprised,”

he said.

“He came right to us. He made a close approach to us a couple of times. We watched him from a distance and he’d come over and check us out, go around the boat and underneath. He’d roll up on his side and look at us.”

Hal Whitehead, a biology professor at Dalhousie University who specializes in the study of whales, said orcas are not often spotted in Nova Scotia waters but are more frequently seen off Newfoundland and Labrador.

“They are pretty rare around the Maritimes in general, but they are seen from time to time,” he said.

“They come by from time to time. We don’t know quite why or what they are up to.”

Campbell said she felt a little shaky when the orca made such a close approach.

“It was a slightly different feeling, just that really tall dorsal fin,” she said. “It is just a different sort of presence — I think, I guess, maybe because it is a toothed whale.”

The orca breached, or leaped out of, the water three times, and Campbell was happy that she managed to snap a photo of the unusual sight.

Small radioed another whale-watching boat nearby so its passengers could also have a chance to see the killer whale.

“I think the other boat got a pretty good show too,” Campbell said.

Small said it seemed a shame to finally have to call it a day.

“Nobody wanted to go in. We all wanted to stay and keep watching it.

“The weather was starting to deteriorate so we had to go.””


The Belgravia Bed & Breakfast Website

Surf’s Up in Nova Scotia!

Last  March, when our son Evan went on a school exchange to Brazil, one of his favourite, most memorable activities, was the surfing lessons he took. Proclaimed “a natural”, he was anxious to continue surfing in Nova Scotia. We warned him that surfing in Nova Scotia would probably be much different than surfing in Brazil, but he was keen to try.

His 14th birthday coincided with back-to-school for D’Arcy and me, so we promised him that we would treat both him & his brother, Alex, to surfing lessons before the end of the season. Last weekend, with Hurricane Leslie approaching up the Atlantic Seaboard, the waves had been churned up and conditions would have been too wild for our beginners.

This weekend, Saturday dawned bright and beautiful and calm. I made a call to Nico at the East Coast Surf School to see if there might be a possibility of lessons for the boys at the last minute. We had a full-house on Friday, so arranged the lessons for 2 p.m. which would give us enough time to get the rooms changed over. We called my parents and they were happy to come over to welcome guests until we returned. D’Arcy, who is very comfortable in the water, growing up sailing and being a certified scuba diver, was slightly disappointed I hadn’t booked him into lessons as well!

The weather was beautiful and the tide was coming in.As it turns out, the water on the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia is warmer now than it is in the summer – we’re spoiled by spending most of our summer water time in the warm waters of the Northumberland Straight on Nova Scotia’s northern coast. The boys were provided with wet suits and Sam took them out for their lessons while we played with the girls on the beach. Sam also declared that the boys were both “naturals” but Evan was frustrated that it was not as easy to surf in Nova Scotia than it was in Brazil – the waves were more powerful…

They had a great afternoon, trying to master the art of “hanging ten”. The best part was that when their lesson was over, they had the use of the boards & wetsuits for the rest of the afternoon. D’Arcy even tried to surf a couple of times while Evan was taking a breather…  I can see that we’ll definitely be trying this again next year!

It’s only a 1 hour and 22 minute drive from Truro to Lawrencetown Beach where there is year-round surfing – an easy day trip from the Belgravia Bed & Breakfast.

Heading into the water at Lawrencetown Beach

The girls kept themselves occupied while their brothers were at their lessons by playing in the surf.


So much fun to watch – even more fun to do (from what I’ve been told)!


Alex is trying to get up…

Wipe out!

Sam shows Evan and Alex how it’s done…

The girls have fun burying Dad in the sand.

‘Return to the Belgravia Bed & Breakfast website

Flooding in Truro

Many people who follow the news have heard that yesterday in Truro, we had the “perfect storm” which created massive flooding in our town. Hurricane Leslie, which hit Newfoundland today, was feeding a low pressure system which stalled over our area. The heavy rain (145 mm+) combined with high tide in an already swollen Salmon River, caused the dykes to be breached and the water to flow into town.

Luckily, at the Belgravia Bed & Breakfast, our guests were warm, cozy & dry and our home was not affected – which seemed amazing because streets very close to us, and the golf course in our neighbourhood were closed. We’ve heard stories about one friend who was rescued from her home by a canoe, other friends who were rescued from their homes in the bucket of a front end loader, and another friend’s son, who was wakeboarding in the flood water in their backyard!

I am happy to report that although this amount of water was a huge inconvenience to many, I have not heard of any injuries or worse – fatalities as a result.

Thank you to past guests, friends & family from away who have contacted us to inquire about our safety – I’m happy to report we’re all just fine!

The Joe Howe Falls in Victoria Park, Truro. Photo Credit: Truro Parks & Recreation

Fletcher’s Restaurant, located just down the street from us. Photo credit: Robb Scott

A lake at the Truro Golf Club – located on the other end of our block. Photo credit: Truro Golf Club

The first time I’ve ever seen so much flooding at the Truro Golf Club – located at the opposite end of our block. Photo credit: Truro Golf Club

Lorne Street looking South. Stanfield’s Factory on the left, the Stadium and High School on the right. Needless to say, all were evacuated! Photo credit: Tim Roland

The parking lot of the mall on Robie Street last night; this is the main artery in and out of Truro. Photo credit: Bobby Harroun

A friend’s son, wakeboarding in their backyard. Notice the water is as deep as the trampoline is high. Photo credit: Susan MacQuarrie

The Long Way Home

When planning our itinerary, D’Arcy & I knew it would be faster to drive through Maine from Sherbrooke, rather than going back up to Quebec City then home, but late in the trip we started to wonder how much time it would add to drive through Vermont so that the kids could say that they were there. We talked to Scott about it and made the decision to take that route. This would mean that we would be traveling through three provinces and three states in one day. (Quebec, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.)

We got up shortly after six and started to pack the van for the trip home. We all had a wonderful, non-rushed breakfast together in Scott & Jennifer’s big farmhouse kitchen. There was lots of great coffee, hot chocolate and conversation. The goal was to leave by eight, but by the time we said all of our goodbyes, and had hugs, it was about 8:20 when we started our 1300 km journey home.

The new friends!


The old friends! (Just number of years, not age!) 😉

We drove into Lennoxville and pointed out Bishop’s University to the boys. The older brother of one Alex’s best friends goes to Bishop’s. We crossed the border with no problems and visited the Information Centre to pick up a map of the State.

It’s unfortunate that we had to complete such a long drive in one day, because we would have liked to have stopped in many different places along the way. We’ve made notes, in case the Ottawa opportunity comes up again another year. The White Mountains were gorgeous, and we drove past Mt. Washington and Santa’s Village in New Hampshire, both places I remember visiting with my own parents when I was a child.

I was glad that Jennifer had sent along those treats for Olivia, as other than the delicious breakfast at their house, the rest of today’s meals were eaten in our van while we were on the move. The kids did remarkably well in the van, especially considering they were on the road for nine hours yesterday and almost fifteen hours today. There was only once, in Maine, when we told Olivia to pick out a house she liked so we would leave her there. She decided that we couldn’t leave her there, because “Pepper” (D’Arcy’s brother’s dog) would miss her. Oh my!

We filled up with gas one last time just before we got to Calais. It was only 76 cents per litre there, as opposed to $1.32/L here at home.

Our Border crossing back into Canada wasn’t as fun as our first crossing through there two weeks ago. This time, we were flagged for a random check. The Boarder Agent that checked the car was quite nice and I think he realized that we weren’t smuggling anything in to the country. He moved as quickly as possible and let us go. In fact, he allowed the kids to stay in their seats.  I’m sure it helped that I had my receipts ready and offered them to him to check. With six of us in the car, and having been in the States for six days last week, we were allowed to bring back $800 worth of goods each, duty free. We’re nowhere  even close to that, despite supporting the US Economy in Freeport!

After traveling 5,260 km by van in fourteen days; covering three provinces, five states; going from 156 feet underground to 1100 feet above ground; two different subway lines, a commuter train, an amphibious boat, numerous roller-coasters, many kilometers and stairs on foot; numerous shoulder rides, elevator rides, and luggage cart rides; seeing five major waterfalls, exploring twenty major museums and/or historic sites, swimming in pools, waterfalls, and a river; visiting with twenty-five people who are very special to us but we don’t have the opportunity to see often enough; we arrived home just after midnight to a full house at The Belgravia Bed & Breakfast and went right back to work.

It’s time to start saving for our next trip…

*This post was written during the 15 hour drive home from Quebec to Nova Scotia on July 15th.

Making a Splash!

On our last full day in Ottawa, D’Arcy started marking at 7am because they were still behind – 16 teachers were trying to finish marking 1,000 Science Exams in four days…  The kids & I had planned to go to the Canadian Museum of Nature after my cousin Chad had suggested it to us earlier in the week. My top Signature Strenth is “Input”, meaning that I love to collect information. When we go to museums or participate in tours, I absorb as many facts as I can, and it would seem that my children have inherited this trait. It takes us a really long time to go through a museum – not because we dawdle, but because we participate and take in as much as we can.

Kathleen was coming into the city anyway, so she dropped Evan & Alex off at the museum and Sarah, Olivia & I met them there. The temperature was forecast to be 36*C, so we were happy to be inside for the morning.

The Museum of Nature turned out to be one of the best museums that I have been to. We started out on the top floor in the “bird wing” and worked our way downstairs. There was just so much to see and do!! I felt guilty because I had made a lunch date with a childhood friend at 1:30 and we clearly were not going to be finished. Not wanting to miss anything, I suggested to the kids that we walk to meet Wendy for lunch and then come back to finish seeing the exhibits we hadn’t been to yet. They readily agreed!

The kids play a board game about birds and their habitats.

Continuing with our series of fun photos…

The Big, Bad Wolf chases two of the three little pigs in play area of the Mammal Gallery at the Museum of Nature.

Surrounded by dinosaurs!

Our lunch with Wendy at “Woody’s Elgin Street Urban Pub” was a highlight of our trip! Wendy & I first met years ago in the Truro Music Festival, where we were always in the same piano sight reading class, among others. We were also at high school at the same time, although she was a grade behind me. Through the wonders of Facebook, we have rekindled our friendship and were happy to meet up. It was as if no time had passed at all, and as if my children had known her forever. Wendy is a professional musician and currently playing in the pit orchestra for Ottawa’s Broadway production of “Wicked” at the National Arts Centre. There was no shortage of conversation, nor laughter, and the afternoon flew by. She presented the kids with a CD of music from the Broadway production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”. They were especially thrilled because Olivia, Sarah & Alex had sung “Happiness” as a trio together in the Truro Music Festival this Year, and Alex had been Snoopy for his musical theatre solo.

Having fun with Wendy at the Pub.

We had hugs, and she went off on her way, and we walked back to the museum to see the bottom two floors. At suppertime, we were finished and drove to the hotel to pick D’Arcy up. When we got into the van, it was measuring the outside temperature as 39*C – Brazil temperatures!! D’Arcy had finished about a half hour before we arrived for him, so had crossed the street to find a geo-cache at the Museum of Civilization.

It was the first time three of our children had ever been in heat this temperature!

We all drove together to Britannia Yacht Club to meet up with Kathleen, Bill & the cousins. We went swimming, had dinner, and listened to the band.  Kathleen even got D’Arcy up and dancing at one point. Reilly was fishing, William & Evan putted around in a boat, and the girls played on the playground &  with the dogs that were there. The cousins went swimming at dusk and all jumped off the pier together. It was a magical final evening together.

D’Arcy & his sister, Kathleen, dancing to the band

They can really cut a rug – er, a lawn!

Kathleen & Erin

Girls at the playground – this favourite position is why Sarah always wears shorts or leggings under her dresses!

Summer fun!

Dancing on the pier.

On your mark… Get set…


* This post was written while we were on vacation from July 1st – 15th. We are now back home and welcoming guests.

Parliament, Van Gogh & the Yacht Club

On our second day in the Ottawa area, we got up early, we had breakfast,  and then the girls & I walked the 2km across the Ottawa River to Parliament Hill and met up with Evan, Alex, Kathleen & Erin to watch the Changing of the Guards. The ceremony lasts 45 minutes and is very beautiful to watch and listen to. There were bagpipes and a military band. The girls were lucky to get a spot when they could sit on the grass at the edge of the lawn, so they had a perfect vantage point.

When it’s hot, and you have to walk 2km, it’s nice to have a sister who will give you a lift!

Changing of the Guard ceremony, Parliament Hill, Ottawa

The beautiful Changing of the Guard Ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. No matter what your feelings are of our country’s political system, we are fortunate to live in a country where we have a say. It was a very special feeling to be surrounded by so much history!

We spent an hour or more touring the grounds of Parliament Hill, looking at statues, and searching for stray cats. We climbed down a set of stairs to the Ottawa River and walked along it a little way before stopping for a drink. We could see the bridge we had walked over. The temperature was in the 30’s the whole time we were in Ottawa, so it was important to stay hydrated.  Before going back up the stairs, we took guesses on how many there were. The total? 262 – Alex’s guess!!  Evan had climbed 51 stairs when Olivia decided he wasn’t counting properly and made him go back down and start over. Being a good sport – and in good shape – he humoured her and did it!

The bridge Sarah, Olivia & I had walked across to get from our hotel to Parliament Hill.

Evan & Olivia climb the 262 stairs back to Parliament Hill from the Ottawa River.

We stopped at the monument commemorating Women in Canada earning the right to vote and had a “Girl Power” photo taken!

We all learn the history of women winning the right to vote in Canada from a heritage interpreter.

Kathleen finds a long-lost relative!

We headed downtown to find a restaurant to have lunch and stopped at “The Fish Market”, near the National Art Gallery. It was a lovely meal – Sarah had a plate of fries, Erin had a cheese pizza, Alex & Kathleen had fish & chips, Olivia & I shared a garlic shrimp & scallop with rice and veggies entrée, and Evan had lobster poutine. They were very good at accommodating five children and food allergies!

After lunch, we walked to the National Art Gallery to visit the Van Gogh exhibit. Along the way were many street musicians, and Kathleen grabbed Evan for an impromptu dance.

Under the sculpture outside of the Art Gallery. Sarah was NOT impressed to be posing with a giant spider!!

The Van Gogh exhibit at the art gallery was really interesting, and the paintings were beautiful. The art was above the children’s heads until we got to an interactive part of the exhibit where they were able to put together puzzles of his paintings on the wall, make artwork of their own which would be displayed at the museum, and send letters to Vincent Van Gogh. Olivia wrote, “ Dear Vincent, When I looked at your paintings today, I loved your paintings and I wish I could paint like you. Love, Olivia, age 5”.  The gallery responded, sending her an email the following day with an excerpt from one of Vincent Van Gogh’s own letters, saying: “…the love of art makes us lose real love. I find that terribly true, but on the other hand real love puts you right off art. And sometimes I already feel old and broken, but still sufficiently in love to stop me being enthusiastic about painting.” Perhaps over her head!

Erin wasn’t feeling well, so Evan & Alex left from the Art Gallery with Kathleen while the girls and I walked back over the bridge to our hotel. We met up with D’Arcy and then we all went to the Britannia Yacht Club for dinner and an evening of swimming, fishing, jumping, and monkey bars. Alex caught and released a small mouth bass. The adults had fun just talking, eating, having some wine, and watching the cousins play together.

Swimmers at Britannia Yacht Club

Getting ready to jump off the wharf



Alex runs for it!

Love this photo of Alex & Aunt Kathleen!! ❤

Reilly & his fish

The future vets with Coco the dog.

A beautiful sunset to end a wonderful day!

Family & Fun in Ottawa

In mid-June, right around the time I found out I would be returning to Cornell, D’Arcy learned that he had been chosen as the Nova Scotia representative to mark the PCAP Assessments, a Science Exam written by Grade 9 students across the country. He was scheduled to be marking from Tuesday – Friday from 8:30 – 4:30 daily. This meant that the kids & I would be having some adventures on our own for the week.

The first morning we were in Ottawa, after D’Arcy left for work, the girls & I were moving slowly. We drove back to Kanata, and when we got to Kathleen’s, we discovered that Evan, Alex, Reilly & Erin had caught a frog in a nearby pond. Kathleen suggested a swim in their next-door-neighbour’s pool, so the cousins shared their bathing suits, and everyone had a fun morning staying cool in the 36*C+ temperatures. The neighbours also had a sweet dog, Bailey, so Olivia was in her glory playing with him. We made sandwiches for lunch, and then I took Evan, Alex, Sarah, Olivia and Erin in to Ottawa to take a tour of the Royal Canadian Mint.

“Percy Jim McDonah” – the frog. “He was released back into the “wild” shortly after this was taken.


Alex & Reilly

Evan & Erin


The Canadian Mint makes commemorative and investment coins, as opposed to circulation coins. I was amazed by how much trivia Alex knew about the history of our currency. Things like the fact that since 2006, the cast of the Queen on the back of all of our coins no longer has her wearing a crown. Apparently she made this choice because she wants to appear closer to the people. We learned that Canada holds the record for producing the purest gold coin in the world. At 99.999% pure, the $1,000,000 face value coin is 52 cm in diameter and 3 inches thick. There were only five of them made, and they feature a maple leaf design. The monetary value of each is now over $6.2M.

Royal Canadian Mint

Cousins, waiting to tour the Mint

Team work – lifting a 28 pound solid gold bar

The solid gold $1M coin we learned about. One of the five is in Saudi Arabia and has been turned into a coffee table by its owner.

Happy in Ottawa


After we finished our tour of the Mint, we went to the hotel to pick up D’Arcy and then we all went back to Kathleen & Bill’s for a barbeque. We had steak, potatoes, salad, and corn-on-the-cob with ice cream sandwiches for dessert. The kids played hide-and-seek, went to the nearby playground and hung out. It was a really great evening.


Fun while waiting for supper

With my brother-in-law, Bill

*This post was written while we were traveling from July 1st – 15th. We are now back home and are welcoming guests.