With a cetacean version of a goodbye kiss, one special humpback whale bid farewell to the human friends he made off the coast of Trinity this July, a relationship one tour boat operator will not soon forget.

"We developed a relationship with him more so than any other whale that I've ever encountered," Robert Bartlett, who runs Trinity Eco Tours, said of the humpback he christened Finnegan.

Bartlett and his boatloads of whale watchers first spotted Finnegan a few years ago, with the his distinctive damaged dorsal fin helping him stand out from the pod.

However, it wasn't until this summer that Finnegan broke the ice.

"I've had whales show interest in the boat, and actually spyhop and look and do different things, but it's a one-off incident, and then they go off and you probably don't see them again," Bartlett told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

"This whale we saw regularly, we saw often several times a day," he said, adding it's rare to have such repeat visits.

"He would perform for us, when he wasn't feeding… he would do tail lobbing for us, peck fin slapping, and come around the boat."

For the last two and a half months, Bartlett's boat paid regular visits to Finnegan, sometimes a few times a day, as their relationship deepened and a star was born.

"We got a lot of video opportunities and pictures, and people came to know him. We actually named him because of his damaged dorsal." 

A whale of a kiss

On the last day Bartlett saw Finnegan, the whale made sure to leave a lasting impression.

"We got on the GoPro, and actually he came towards the boat and got close enough that I actually touched him," said Bartlett, with the footage to prove it, that shows Finnegan's big, baleen-filled mouth nuzzling the camera.

I kind of think it was like a goodbye, thinking that he probably wouldn't see us again. - Robert Bartlett

"I've never seen or heard tell of it before. I'll probably never see it again." 

In the area that day was a large number of whales, presumably attracted by capelin, and it appeared Finnegan was preparing to leave behind human interaction for a humpback one.

"I kind of think it was like a goodbye, thinking that he probably wouldn't see us again, that he was leaving. And I'm sure on some of the GoPro footage I can actually hear him vocalizing to some degree." 

With files from the St. John's Morning Show