The History of Long and Brier Islands

Long and Brier Island Whale Watching History

by | Jan 9, 2022 | Brier Island, Freeport, Long Island, Tiverton, Videos, Westport | 2 comments


No one has done a short history of our whale watching here on Long & Brier Island, now is the time. I know there will be mistakes in this, I am hoping that some of the Whale Watching boat owners will send me corrections.

 I asked our daughter Amanda to help me with this as she has over twenty eight years of experience working as a desk clerk, office manager and naturalist in the whale watching industry. Amanda tries to have the answers for the whale watchers when they ask the questions. Amanda has become very knowledgeable about sea life and whales, this is all became possible because whale watchers are very interested in whales and are asking her lots of questions. If she doesn’t know, see will find the answer.

Acrylic Painting I did in 2005 of a couple of whales

Up to 12 species of whales are to be found in the Bay of Fundy during the summer months. The whales use the bay as a feeding ground, nursery and play area. They feast on the enormous amounts of krill, squid and schools of young herring, pollock and mackerel found in the bay as a result of the powerful Fundy tides

The Bay of Fundy is also a preferred location for whales to give birth, both for the abundant food and for the protection that the Bay provides. The Finback Whales, Minke Whales and Harbour Porpoises are the first to arrive from their southern migration grounds in the late spring.

The Humpback Whales and White-sided Dolphins return in June and by mid-July all the whales, including the rare North Atlantic Right Whale, have returned and they usually stay in the Bay of Fundy until fall. For this reason, the Bay of Fundy whale watching season runs from June to October inclusive. The best month to go whale watching is definitely August.

Main food sources for whales and dolphins include plankton (microscopic plants and animals), krill (look like small shrimp), cope pods and small fish including herring or cod. The Bay of Fundy is an important feeding ground with the high tides, currents, and upwelling helping to concentrate the food source for these large mammals.

The whales have been coming to the Bay of Fundy forever. We had become so accustomed to seeing these mammals around us that we never thought other people may like us to share these magnificent creatures with them.

Whale watching got started quite by accident in the mid 1980’s. I am going to include this section from Caroline B. Norwood’s Book “Life on Brier Island” where Caroline does an interview with Carl Haycock in 1995 where, he explains how he had come to Brier Island in 1984 and how the Island had changed.

Carl Haycock Started Whale Watching in 1985 and

the Island Began to Change

( By Caroline Norwood)

January 1995:

 Carl Haycock first visited Brier Island in 1984. He was 25 years old. He met with Brier Island residents and told them about the many whales to be seen offshore on the Island.

He said he was a “noted authority and photographer of humpback whales” and have been studying whales off Brier Island for two years. At this meeting, Carl showed slides of different whales he had photographed in the area and explained about identifying individual whales by markings on the underside of their tail.

He said he had identified 25 individual humpback whales off Brier Island so far that year. He noted the humpback arrives in the Gulf of Maine in April and stays until November when they start moving towards Puerto Rico area.

 Carol told the people in 1985 there are still a great deal of research to be done concerning whale migration. He said when he first came to Brier Island he expected to see some right whales but was surprised to see so many humpback whales. He noted there were at that time 25 whale watching boats going out from Massachusetts ports.

 He said whale watching was a big business in that area, and predicted such whale watching expeditions could also be carried out economically in this area and would benefit the local economy.

 That 1985 meeting marked the start of the whale watching era, for Brier Island. Life began to change here. The change started in 1986 when Carl and Westport resident Harold Graham started making commercial whale watching trips. The business grew slowly at first. In recent years, it brings thousands of visitors to this area each year.

 This influx of people has resulted in the establishment of numerous tourist-related businesses and an increase in business for those already serving the public. By coincidence, Carl’s whale-watching idea came at a time when the inshore ground fish fishery was rapidly declining. The result is many people who were employed in the fishery now have jobs in businesses relating to tourism. And the whale watching business continues to grow on both Islands.

 I spoke with Carl January 3, 1995 in his home in Irishtown. He bought the house formerly occupied by Cora Thompson. At that time his house was also headquarters for Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises. He gave me copies of the sleek brochure put out by the this company he formed with Harold Graham in 1986. He notes the business was formed as a partnership, then incorporated in 1988. a large vessel, the 44 ft. “Cetacean Venture” was purchased. Cruises had been carried out in Graham’s lobster boat, “Kenny and Girls 5”.

 In 1987, Carl and Harold receive Certificates of Merit at the Nova Scotia Environmental Awards in appreciation of outstanding service in the protection of the environment.

 In 1992, the company expanded again with the addition of the 52 ft. “Cetacean Quest.” Carol notes more than 10,000 passengers went whale watching with their Company in 1993 and 1994.

 Carl said he has kept his American citizenship but is a permanent resident in Canada. “I consider Nova Scotia my home.” He said there is some resentment among the Islanders about the whale watching business but added, “there hasn’t been a lot of it. No one has really been rude like that. I’m friends with everybody everyone on the Island, at least I think I am. I fit in probably because I have a lot of fishing background. I understand the people.

 “On a small Island like this, you really have to have to mind your own business especially if you are from away. Also I had a business relationship with someone on the Island. I don’t see the Island getting out of hand because it has been a slow growth in the industry. It makes it easier for people to accept that. But our company has created since seasonal employment which is good. There’s room for other whale watch businesses,” he noted.

 Carl said he plans to make Brier Island his permanent home. “Especially with the Brier Island Ocean Studies project. there’s a tonne of stuff yet to be done. We receive a lot of credit in many journals about whales, right whales, humpbacks. I’m now working on a ten-year report on the humpbacks especially.”

 He explained BIOS was formed in 1987 to handle the research and education programs related to the whale watching. BIOS is a registered charitable society. An Adopt a Fundy Whale program provides funds BIOS. He offers a copy of Doane Raymonds audited Financial Statement for BIOS. The report shows BIOS had revenue of $31,292 in 1994 and expenses of $40,513. However, there was a surplus of $20,931 at the beginning of the year. With the $9,221 deducted, the end of the year surplus became $11,710. The statement notes the bulk of revenue came from the Adopt  a Whale program ($15,191) with the next highest generator being “Donations, memberships and sales of buttons ($10,360).

 The statement notes “The Society is a nonprofit organization dedicated to research, education and conservation of the cetaceans, seabirds and marine ecosystems of the Bay of Fundy.”

 Carl said the Adopt a Whale program is “pretty famous. We realized probably over $75,000 which pays BIOS operating funds, newsletters, money to purchase equipment. When BIOS started, we had nothing. Now we have two computers, two laser printers, high-quality video camera,” he said. He added donations come from all over. “People love whales, they are interested in them. “The latest issue of BIOS News (Autumn ’94) reports 1340 adoptions since January 1992 with 249 of those being schools.

 He said he doesn’t mind the solitude of the winter. “There’s always something to do. I’m constantly getting letters form school kids from all over North America. They want information about whales. I sent fact sheets out to each of them.”

 One of Carl’s dreams is to see an interpretive center for whale research located on the Western light property which Nova Scotia government has leased to BIOS for $1 per year for the next five years. The Doane report notes use of the property is restricted to Marine research and education facilities with a public interpretive center as well as housing the offices of the Society. “We have the property but now we need to raise the money to build the center,” he said.

 Carl said he attends all three conferences each year regarding whales. He gives slide shows at schools, libraries, universities and museums. In 1994, Carl and Harold received membership into the Academy of the Atlantic Canada Entrepreneurship Association and also received awards on the Impact Category for Nova Scotia. Their cruises and research have been the subject of many feature television programs on MITV, ATV. and CBC as well as numerous articles in publications throughout North America.


Brier Island Whale & Seabird Cruises

Westport – Brier Island

 Started in 1985 and was listed as a company in 1986

Owners; Harold Graham & Carl Haycock

Kenny & Girls 5 First Whale Watching Boat

1986 Brochure (This is the second bunch of brochures that was printed for 1986. The first ones had our phone number on them.[we had a lot of calls].)

These brochures were a very important way to get your message out to people about whale watching as there was no internet to get the message out. Internet didn’t come to our area till the summer of 1996, with the formation of Sympatico, dial-up internet. (using your telephone line)


Ocean Explorations Zodiac Whale Cruises

The next to start a whale watching company was Tom Goodwin who located in Tiverton, Long Island.

Tom has been fascinated by the sea since a young boy. He was a founding year (1975) member of the Cousteau Society and has worked with the Calypso crew. He was also a charter member (1983) of the Society for Marine Mammalogy, and has been supporting the World Wildlife Fund for over 35 years. Tom served all executive positions of the former Nova Scotia Adventure Tourism Association.

Founder, biologist Tom Goodwin began his career as a whale guide in Newfoundland in 1980, where he spent five seasons. He was also involved in studying whales and releasing them from fishing nets in which they were accidentally entrapped.

Tom said he had moved here in June 1986, and started a Bed & Breakfast, then by mid/late July started Whale Watching Tours. Tom had been a graduate at York University and had planned a thesis on “The role of whale watching in environmental education” or something on marine parks etc… real long term plan. He says he was in over his head in debt…9 months later he joined the International Fisheries Program. He took the summers off to do his whale watching, then back to the International Fisheries Program. He did this for 5 years till “he got his head above water again.”


in 1987, Carl and Harold receive Certificates of Merit at the Nova Scotia Environmental Awards in appreciation of outstanding service in the protection of the environment.


Brier Island Whale & Seabird Cruises(1988)LTD

Owners; Roy Graham & Carl Haycock

In 1988, Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises became a limited company and continues to lead research and education cruises in the Bay of Fundy

They also bought the 44 ft. Cetacean Venture


Pirate’s Cove Whale and Seabird Cruises

Alger Sollows started a whale watching company in 1990.

Tiverton, Long Island

Pirate’s Cove Whale and Seabird Cruises is a family

owned business that was established in 1990. Your fully

licensed Captains, Alger Sollows and sons, Darrin and

Todd are experienced career Lobster Fishermen.

Pirate’s Cove Whale and Seabird Cruises

Fundy Cruiser 2


Brier  Island Whale and Seabird Tours bought the 52 ft. Cetacean Quest

This is the only photo I could find of the Cetacean Quest. It is after it was sold to Newfoundland and was painted red. The original colour was royal. blue.


Mariner Cruises Whale & Seabird Tours

Owners; Roy & Penny Graham

Boat; Kenney & Girls 5 (the same boat his brother Harold started his whale watching in)

Westport, Brier Island

Roy and Penny Graham started Mariner Cruises and has been offering Nova Scotia whale watching and birding tours off Brier Island, in the Bay of Fundy since 1994.

All tours are narrated by local naturalists, who are well-versed in the dozens of marine mammals and bird species that visit this important ecological region.

This is the First Boat to go Whale Watching (Used by his brother Harold when he started Brier Island Whale & Seabird Tours)

( It was used for Lobstering, Handlining and trawling when not Whale Watching )

Freeport Whale & Seabird Tours

Freeport – Long Island

Timmy and Karen Crocker started their company in 1994.

1 boat: 12-m (40-ft) Cape Island “Georgie Porgie”

Captain Bradly Crocker is now the Master of the Georgie Porgie.

Timberwind Cruises Deep Sea Fishing-Whale Watching Cruise

Timberwind Cruises sails the Timberwind No.1

Started; 1993-Stopped; 1995

 A 35-foot sail boat. They leave from Westport at 9 am and 1 and 5 pm daily. The rate is $30 per person and they offer a fishing or sightseeing option to guests. Contact Timberwind at Westport, Brier Island,


Decorations for Bravery Medal Awarded on: April 4, 1995

On November 30th 1993 the MV Stump Jumper a fishing vessel ran on Dartmouth Point, and in a short time the crew was in very serious trouble. If it hadn’t been for 2 local fishing boats that rescued 3 of these men they would of lost their lives. One of those that was saved was my brother Gregory Stark. I will always be indebted to Roy Graham and Clinton Tinker and their crews for doing this.

On November 30, 1993, Mr. Clinton Tinker and his boat crew (brother Clifford and Mr. Barnaby) and Mr. Graham and his boat crew (daughter Rosalind and Messrs. Dixon and Swift) fought against dangerous sea conditions to rescue three men from a fishing boat that had gone aground at Dartmouth Point, Long Island in Nova Scotia. Hearing a >Mayday’ call on his radio, Mr. Graham responded immediately. He radioed for more help when he realized his boat was too large to approach the rocky ledge where the damaged vessel was grounded. Mr. Tinker soon arrived and maneuvered his smaller craft as close to the ledge as possible. As the high swells tossed their boats up and down almost every thirty seconds, the two captains jockeyed their vessels around the damaged fishing boat. Despite the difficult conditions, Clifford Tinker, Messrs. Barnaby, Dixon and Swift, and Ms. Graham managed to pull three men to safety. Sadly, the captain of the stranded boat drowned.

Medal of Bravery Awarded

Mr. Roy Albert Graham, M.B.

Carl Stoney Barnaby, M.B.

Vance Edward Dixon, M.B.

Rosalind Penny Graham, M.B.

James Douglas Swift, M.B.

Clifford Melvin Tinker, M.B.

Clinton Tinker, M.B.


Brier Island Whale & Seabird Cruises (1997) Limited

Year Listed Company: 1986- Incorporated: 1996

Company Description: Brier Island Whale & Seabird Cruises (1997) Limited is located in Westport, NS, Canada and is part of the Scenic and Sightseeing Transportation, Water Industry.

 In 1996 Harold registered his company Brier Island Whale & Seabird Cruises as Brier Island Whale & Seabird Cruises (1997) Limited.

Owner; Harold Graham

Westport Whale Watch Ltd.

Owner/ Operator; Carl Haycock

Started; March 14th 1996- Closed Down; 2007

Boat; MV Captain Grumpy

Westport, Brier Island, NS

B0V 1H0


Island’s Safari

Deep Sea Fishing-Whale Watching & Seabird Cruise

Owner: Jeffery Crocker

Started; 1996  Stopped; 1998

Slocum’s Whale and Deep Sea Fishing

Owner; Dougie Delaney

Started; 1996 ? Stopped: 2008 ?

Boat ; Miss Joy & Master Tom

Westport, Brier Island, NS

B0V 1H0



Code of Ethics:

During the season ending in 1997, there were 11 agencies operating in the area compared to one a decade ago. There is a lot of interest in viewing these great mammals, but it comes with some concern that this industry may be disturbing the whales in their natural habitat by overcrowding and accidents with boats.

The code of ethics was drafted in 1995 and signed in 1996 by all whale tour operators in the Lower Bay of Fundy region, with 1997 being the first full year this code has been in place.

Code of Ethics: Bay of Fundy Marine Tour Operators

The purpose of this code is to foster an environment of co-operation and trust among marine tour operators for the protection and safety of the whales and other marine wildlife, and the safety and understanding of their passengers.

We agree to abide by this code for the protection and preservation of whales within our waters.

Definitions: A vessel will be defined as either a motorized vessel or a kayak group. A kayak group is defined as no more than 10 kayaks paddling in a co-ordinated group.

We agree that the first vessel to locate a whale or group of whales will have first viewing priority. The vessel is under no obligation to announce the location of the whales to other operators. We agree that no more than two vessels will view a whale or group of whales at a distance within 100 m of the whale or group. If the whales are travelling, the viewing vessels will maintain a respectable distance to avoid herding the animals.

We agree that a maximum of 30 minutes will be spent viewing a whale or group of whales if more than two vessels are in the immediate vicinity. Passengers will be informed that we are moving off to allow other vessels to view the whale and that we must avoid crowding the animals and endangering their safety. Motorized vessels will also take care not crowd or endanger the safety of kayakers.

We agree to move off from any whale that is demonstrating avoidance behaviour, such as turning away or increasing speed.

We agree that all operators will stand by on a designated VHF radio channel for purposes of communication when more than one vessel is viewing or waiting to view a whale or group of whales, and we will co-ordinate the selection of the channel with whale watching vessels from other areas in the Bay of Fundy.

We agree that vessels, when approaching another vessel already engaged in whale watching, will contact that vessel and arrange viewing priority.

We agree to keep a fair distance when waiting our turn to view, so as not to crowd the whale or viewing vessels. While waiting our turn to view we will engage in other activities such as sea bird and seal viewing, or conservation education.

We agree that, when vessels are stopping to listen for whale blows in the fog that as a courtesy other vessels in the immediate vicinity will do the same.

We agree to cover different areas as much as possible so that not all vessels will converge on the same location.

We agree that in the vicinity of fixed fishing gear we will practice caution to avoid steering or herding whales in the direction of the gear.

We agree that we will commit to educating the public and other boat operators about the conservation of whales and the preservation of the marine ecosystem. We recognize that adherence to this code demonstrates our care and concern for whale conservation.

We agree to re-assess this code of ethics annually and update as needed. Dated 17 March 1997.


Changing the Shipping Lane in the Bay of Fundy

(Source: Blair MacNeill “Fact and Fancy”)


Brier Island Whale & Seabird Cruises Ltd bought another boat. The MV Mega Nova is a 50 foot fibreglass Cape Island Style boat certified to carry 50 passengers.


Norwoods Boat Tours

Owner; Dan Norwood

Started; 2003-Stopped; ?


Brier Island Whale & Seabird Cruises Ltd bought the “Cetacean Adventure” It is a Zodiac TM SRMN (Sea RIB Marine and Navy) 730, a 24 ft. rigid hull inflatable boat.

Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises Ltd. Bought another Zodiac “The ORCA 1” is a Bombard Explorer, a 20 ft. rigid hull inflatable, powered by a 4 stroke 115 HP Yamaha engine.


Mariner Cruises Whale & Seabird Tours

January 7th, 2009 Captain Roy Albert Graham passed away suddenly.

Mariner Cruises is now owned and operated by Penny Graham, lifelong resident of Westport, Brier Island.

 Captains Kenney and Chad Graham have navigated the waters of St. Mary’s Bay and the Bay of Fundy for some time, Kenney since 1983 and Chad since 1996. Both men are the sons of Penny and the late Captain Roy Albert Graham MB.


Welcome Aboard Whale & Seabird Tours

Owners; Brier Island Lodge

Started; 2010-Stopped; 2020

Boat; MV Island Link


Pirate’s Cove Whale and Seabird Cruises

Shut Down: 2014

Well, after twenty-five amazing summers on the Bay of Fundy, it’s time to drop anchor for good. With mixed feelings, we’ve decided to close Pirate’s Cove Whale and Seabird Cruises, and to put the Fundy Cruiser up for sale. It’s been quite the voyage for the Sollows family, and for the various crew over the years. We’ve met so many wonderful people, and witnessed so many truly awesome sights. Thanks to everyone who has sailed with us, and of course to the whales and dolphins, the birds and all the other wondrous creatures who live in, on and above the water. All the best from Alger, Gail, Darrin, Todd, Holly, Janet and Chris.


Fundy East Whale Rescue – FEWR

Started; February 2017

We are a small group of volunteers on Long and Brier Islands dedicated to the rescue of whales entangled in fishing gear in our area. We are working in conjunction with Marine Animal Response Society (MARS),  Campobello Whale Rescue Team (CWRT) and Department of Fisheries and Oceans.


Tom Goodwin captures video of rare triple breach by humpbacks


At the end of the year 2021 there was four company’s still operating from Long & Brier Islands.

Brier Island Whale & Seabird Cruises (1997) Limited


The Mega Nova

The MV Mega Nova is a 50 foot fibreglass Cape Island Style boat certified to carry 50 passengers. It is equipped with an open viewing deck at main level and an upper observation deck, as well as seats, rails, washroom and shelter. It is a very seaworthy, stable craft and very comfortable on the water.

The name Mega Nova is derived from the scientific name of the humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae which translates to “Big Winged New Englander”.

Cetacean Adventure

Orca 1

The Cetacean Adventure & Orca 1

The Cetacean Adventure is a Zodiac TM SRMN (Sea RIB Marine and Navy) 730, a 24 ft. rigid hull inflatable boat, certified to carry 12 passengers. It is powered by a 4 stroke, 200 HP Yamaha engine. The ORCA 1 is a Bombard Explorer, a 20 foot rigid hull inflatable powered by a 4 stroke 115 HP Yamaha engine. The ability to reach a speed of up to 35 knots enable us to reach the whales much faster allowing for more time spent observing them.

Mariner Cruises Whale & Seabird Tours

The company has been offering unique whale watching and seabird adventures since 1994. Captains Kenney and Chad Graham have navigated the waters of St. Mary’s Bay and the Bay of Fundy for some time, Kenney since 1983 and Chad since 1996.

Freeport Whale & Seabird Tours

Freeport – Long Island

Captain; Bradly Crocker

Ocean Explorations Zodiac Whale Cruises

Tiverton Long Island

Owner & Captain; Tom Goodwin


Best places around the world for whale-watching

From the blue waters of Baja to the iceberg-studded fjords of Greenland, we’ve picked out the best places around the globe for a cetacean sighting. Thar she blows!

4. Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, Canada

The Bay of Fundy has the world’s highest tides — 18m from peak to trough, the height of four double-decker buses — which act as an oceanic suction pump, pulling in huge quantities of plankton and nutrients. And where the food goes, whales are sure to follow. The top locations for whale spotting are Brier Island and neighbouring Long Island, off Nova Scotia’s northwestern shore.

Reached by car ferry from the mainland, these sleepy island communities offer excellent trips with highly experienced guides: there’s a choice of large, well-equipped sightseeing vessels, or fast outboard-powered RIBs for maximum maneuverability. Brier Island Whalewatch and Ocean Explorations both have good reputations. Fin, minke and humpback whales are all regularly sighted; blue whales and the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale are more elusive. Brier Island has another claim to fame: it’s the former home of sailor Joshua Slocum, the first man to sail solo around the world in 1895.

My Thoughts:

As I think back over the last thirty seven years,  to the time when Carl Haycock said the Islands were about to change, I think of what changes have taken place in regards to Whale Watching. I think of how Covid-19 has slowed this industry down.

I think of the thousands of people that have made their way to our Islands, hoping to see one of these magnificent mammals. I wonder if they envy us being able to see these mammals any time.

They have come from all over world, by car, bus or by bicycle. Some people come here as it is on their “bucket list of things to do”, some in wheelchairs, some taking their last breaths. There is something about seeing these whales that brings people here. Even the Captains, and crews of these whale watching boats are still as excited about seeing these whales as they were the very first time they seen them. They know each one by name, age and even know when the whale was here the last time.

It has brought an income for these Islanders that are involved in whale watching, at a time when our fishery has taken such a decline.

So when you get your next chance to come here to see these highly intelligent mammals, just take a moment to think, are you studying these mammals or are “they studying you”.


  1. Murray

    Wow Rodney. That is a lot of research. Well done. I enjoyed reading about the whale watching

  2. Carol

    I very much enjoyed reading this.
    From visiting the Islands 50 years ago to recently moving to the area, it is wonderful to see the research being done here and being able to partake and support the cause by booking a tour.


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