The Annual Overland Whale Migration

I received an email from Peter Barss recounting a 1985 April Fool's Day hoax he was involved in. It's a great story, so I'll let him tell it in his own words:

In 1985 the Bridgewater Bulletin had an April Fool's front page. Turn over the bogus page and there was the true front page with the day's news. One reporter created an image of a twelve foot starfish climbing out of the sea and up the side of a fisherman's building. Another wrote a story about an international airport that would be constructed just outside Bridgewater (Nova Scotia). That story made it to the provincial legislature where the Minister of Transportation stood and demanded why he hadn't been told about the airport.

My story, a feature on the upcoming Annual Whale Migration, was the longest article and caused the most consternation in our readership. The Lahave River is a wide slow-moving tidal river that runs inland from the sea about twelve miles from LaHave to Bridgewater and then turns into a smaller, faster moving river whose source is about fifteen miles further inland from Bridgewater. The distance from LaHave on the Atlantic side of Nova Scotia to the Bay of Fundy on the other side of the province is about 75 miles.

The central idea of my story was that whales, driven by instinct, migrate up the LaHave River and then overland to the Bay of Fundy every spring. The Department of Natural Resources was kept busy for weeks before the migration cutting a pathway through trees and brush to assist the whales in their overland journey. The department also applied grease on slopes facing the Bay of Fundy so that the whales could slide downhill.

As the day of the migration neared, plans were in the works for pancake festivals and other festivities along the banks of the LaHave River. Free balloons for the kids. The elderly Miss Whale Migration 1928 would be on the lead float in the grand parade that celebrated the whale migration.

Every article on the bogus front page and every cutline under every picture ended with "Happy April Fool's Day."

Nevertheless, the joke was taken very seriously by some people--more than one person bought a pair of binoculars to watch the whales. And when those who had been tricked figured out that they had been tricked there were many angry calls to the paper and not a few subscription cancellations.

Each year two young boys were chosen from the village of LaHave to watch for the whales and fire the cannon at the mouth the LaHave River when they sighted the first whales (see arrow). The attached picture (with arrow pointing to whales) was on the front page of the April Fool's Bulletin. The boys are my sons who agreed to pose for this picture before school.

Animals April Fools Day Folklore/Tall Tales

Posted on Tue Apr 03, 2012


That's great! I especially like the flags in the picture.
Posted by George P Burdell  on  Fri Apr 06, 2012  at  03:22 AM
Just a for real "THANK YOU" for your time spent, and your waayy cool/good work putting your museum out here for us all..., truly, more than ever these days, it seems, we NEED to laugh, and laugh AT OURSELVES !!!, a sincere THANK YOU for simply reminding us, and making it, it seems obvious enough that we dearly need reminding from time to time..!!! Please, keep up your awesome work..!! -- KYL
Posted by kyl wright  on  Sat Apr 07, 2012  at  01:47 PM
The whales are coming, the whales are coming. Too damn cool! It amazes me how one person gets it literally as they read the story, yet others have to not see the whales climbing on land to get it. hoax so far.Thank You..You Rock!!
Posted by tanya  on  Sat Dec 15, 2012  at  05:47 PM
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