Lucas Gamp in a raft on a river with clients waving at the camera

Having a whale of a time as a raft guide

June 28, 2024
Author: Eric Zimmer

Lucas Gamp shares his story

What began as a typical day for Lucas Gamp turned out to be anything but.

The VIU Recreation and Tourism student is on a summer work term at Tidal Bore Rafting Resort in Nova Scotia, about an hour’s drive from Halifax. The company offers motorized rafting activities on the lower Shubenacadie River in eight-seater inflatable zodiac boats. The river is connected to the Bay of Fundy, which features the highest and fastest rising tides in the world.

On June 10, Lucas and three other guides took 30 guests out for a regular two-hour tour. They made a routine stop at a large sandbar to watch and wait for the tidal wave to come in. While they were waiting, they noticed something large in the distance and a “very fishy smell” in the air.

“Everyone instantly realized it was a whale, but only on closer investigation did we realize that it was still alive in a small 20-centimetre-deep tide pool located half-a-kilometer from the nearest water in the shallow freshwater river. It was more than 10 kilometres from the open ocean,” Lucas says. “The whale would have gotten stuck on the sand bar when the tide drained from the river estuary approximately six hours earlier.”

Lucas, along with the other guides and guests approached the whale, scattering away the crows and eagles that were pecking at it in the process. The day was a hot and sunny one, so the guests started splashing water on the whale while Lucas and the other guides radioed the company’s office to let them know about the situation and ask them to call wildlife services.

Lucas also told his guests to avoid any direct physical contact with the whale, and “we definitely didn’t try to move or herd it towards the ocean with our boats, as that would have been dangerous for everyone and distressed the animal even further.”


The whale was a 15-metre-long Minke Whale and “was not moving much,” Lucas recalls. “We kept splashing the whale until we saw the tidal wave (aka bore) in the distance.”

At that point, everybody went back to the boats to continue the rafting trip, while Lucas’ boss, who was driving the spare boat, stayed near the whale to ensure that other motorized rafts from other companies unaware of the situation would not hit it.

The whale’s predicament was not over yet, though.

As the tidal wave flooded over the sandbar, the whale started to put up a huge fight and began thrashing like crazy trying to escape, Lucas remembers. This lasted for about 10 minutes until the tide had flooded the sand bar up to about two metres deep and the whale was flushed up the river and away from the ocean by the waves.

“The whale was disoriented and could not swim properly, having been lying on the sand for too long,” Lucas says. This meant that even though the whale had managed to escape the sandbar as the tide came in, it was pushed by the water deeper into the river and away from the ocean, leaving it vulnerable to becoming trapped again.

The last view Lucas and the group had of the whale was of it “thrashing around as it got flushed into the river.”

The next day, a local resident reported seeing the whale passing under a bridge near the mouth of the river and heading out to the ocean as the overnight tide drained and that it appeared to be healthy.

Wildlife services also conducted aerial surveys of the area that morning to see if they could spot the whale on the sandbars.

“They saw nothing and the small river itself was too small at low tide for the whale to hide in so if it was there, it definitely would have been seen,” Lucas explains. “This meant the whale had certainly escaped back into the Bay of Fundy alive.”

The ordeal also caught the attention of CBC National News and was shared on the program.

“It is certainly the most unique rafting trip many guides and guests have been on,” he adds.

All-in-all, Lucas is thankful the story has a happy ending.

He will return to VIU this fall for his final year of school and plans to work in "the water-based tourism industry” once he graduates.

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