Whale watchers catch rare glimpse of leatherback turtle in Bay of Fundy

Passengers on a whale-watching tour in the Bay of Fundy were treated to a special sight on Tuesday.

Danielle Dion of Quoddy Link Tours and her captain spotted what they thought was a turtle's head poking out of the surf.

"We knew it wasn't a whale. It's definitely not a shark. You go through everything in your mind. 'What is this?' And as soon as I saw it, I was like 'that's a leatherback,'" Dion said in an interview with CBC's Radio's Shift.

WATCH | 'Those special sightings are things that you remember':

While Dion said the species is common in the North Atlantic, spotting one of the turtles is another matter. In the 30 years Quoddy Link has been running whale and wildlife cruises, she said this is only the second such sighting.

"You put a little chop on the water, a little bit of wind, and you're not going to see that head come up. There's no big blow like when we see our large whales," Dion said.

"You don't see them that often, but they're there."

Dion said leatherbacks only surface for a few short seconds, making them tough to spot.
Dion said leatherbacks only surface for a few seconds, making them tough to spot. (Quoddy Link Marine/Facebook)

The turtle was spotted close to the boat, but Dion said passengers only got a quick view of it.

"It was only up for about three or four seconds every time it surfaced. It was a little random where the turtle would come up, and our passengers were all great, keeping their eyes open."

Dion said although she gets excited "every day on the boat," seeing a leatherback was memorable.

"Those special sightings are things that you remember."

But she said she wasn't the only one impressed — the passengers "seemed to understand how special of a sighting it was."