Tidal bore boat operators and rafters got more than they bargained for on a Nova Scotia river over the weekend, when they discovered a minke whale trapped on the sandbars during their excursion.

Once they made the discovery, they sprang into action.

“We’ve had guys who have worked here for 30 years that have never seen anything like this before,” said Lucas Gamp with Tidal Bore Rafting Resort.

Gamp goes out on the river six days a week as part of his job. On Sunday, he and a tour of about 30 people spotted the whale stuck on a sandbar.

“It was just interesting to see this powerful creature, amazing nature,” he said. “It was just an exhilarating experience.”

While waiting for the tide to come in,  the group spent around 20 minutes keeping the animal cool.

Tonya Wimmer, the executive director of the Marine Animal Response Society, says nature took over after that.

“Nature itself helped this animal out with the tide, returning the animal into the water. And then it eventually seemed to sort itself out and swim off,” she said.

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She says minke whales are one of the most common whale species in the region, and that it’s not uncommon to see the animal in the Bay of Fundy. However, it certainly is uncommon in a river.

“They usually know where they’re going, and so they end up in a spot that they’re not quite, you know, they get a little caught out,” she said.

“It’s often because just something happened where they just got caught by surprise.”

Gamp says it was a team effort to save the whale, and even members of other rafting companies in the area joined in.

“One company owner, they stayed out on the river late last night to watch for it, and they saw it leave the bridge to go towards the ocean,” he said.

“It was really nice to see the whole community cared about making sure this thing escapes from the river, and made its way back to the ocean safely.”

Wimmer confirms the whale was spotted swimming normally towards the Bay of Fundy on Sunday evening.

By Monday morning, the Department of Natural Resources had taken a flight over the area to see if the whale had returned.

“They didn’t find the animal again this morning, which was great. It was a low tide. So that’s kind of our maximum chance to see if the animal might still be in the river,” she said.

That’s prompting a big sigh of relief for the community, which received the good news they were hoping for.

Everyone is really happy now and glad this story had a happy ending,” said Gamp.