Whale Sightings in Pakenham and Smiths Falls – Holy SeaWorld!

Whale Sightings in Pakenham and Smiths Falls – Holy SeaWorld!


For the past few nights I have been reading about the geography and terrain of Lanark County. Odd hobby I agree, but it is the basis of our area and how it formed. If you didn’t know, Lanark County used to be part of the Champlain Sea. There are not a lot of fossils in Lanark County, but it has been reported that whale bones were found in a few places. The remainder of a Humpback Whale was found near an empty pit at Welsh’s Station three miles north of Smiths Falls in 1883. The bones were found 30 feet below the surface. read- Whale Sightings Outside Smiths Falls– Part 2


SAM_0687Photo: Google Image

The distance from Pakenham to Halifax NS is 620.87 miles or 999.19 Kilometres so how did a Beluga whale end up outside Pakenham? In 1906, the skull and part of the skeleton of a young Beluga were found beneath more than 4 m (14 ft.) of clay during the excavation of a well near Pakenham, Ontario. About 11 000 years ago when this area was covered by the Champlain Sea there was marine life in this area. The presence of Belugas in the Champlain Sea strongly suggests that its waters were relatively cold. Here is the transcript from Fossils and Geology of Lanark County.

J.F. Whiteaves, staff palaeontologist with of the Geological Survey of Canada, described the finding of this fossil as follows:

“On the 5th of September, 1906, a skeleton, which is obviously that of a very young individual of this same White Whale or Beluga, was found by Mr. Patrick Cannon, while digging a well on his farm, on lot 21 of the 11th concession of Pakenham, Lanark Co., Ont. The Rev. J. R. H. Warren, of the village of Pakenham, informs the writer that this skeleton was embedded in blue clay, fourteen feet below the surface, and that only a portion of it was dug out. In digging the well, he adds, some depth of blue clay was first bored through, then a mixture of clay and shells, in which the skeleton was found, was struck, and the excavation ended in more blue clay. The well has since been incased or lined with stone, and now contains a considerable depth of water, so that it may be somewhat difficult to dig out the remainder of the skeleton.


Photo from Pakenham Ontario Pictures- Google

June 30 1882-Almonte Gazette

At the sand pit near Smiths Falls, thirty six feet below the surface, the gravel train men found part  of what appears to be an extinct animal of the vertebrate kingdom—probably the remains of some *antediluvian race. The structure is bony, honey-combed, and crumbly, with two legs projecting as far as the joints, which latter are distinctly marked. As yet nobody has been able to give it an origin or a name.

The bones that have been exhumed so far, from this excavation, with samples of the mixture of clay and shells in which they were found, have been kindly lent to the writer by Mr. Cannon. The former consist of a nearly perfect skull (with only a few of the teeth missing) and one of the tympanic bones, with most of the cervical vertebrae and three of the dorsals with some of their epiphyses. Or, as interpreted more definitely by Mr. L. M. Lambe, ot the skull, the left tympanic, the atlas, axis, third, fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae, and the second, third and fourth dorsal, with some of their epiphyses.”

The 2-3 year-old whale had made its way up the sea coast and finally sank among some small clam shells near what is thought to be a beach formed by the Pakenham Mountains. About 11,500 years ago, a young white whale made its last struggles to survive in the cool sea water covering the area we now know as Pakenham, Ont. We do not know why it died. It slowly sank, finally coming to rest among small clam shells on the muddy ocean floor. A few miles to the south, seagulls wheeled over the beach of a dark, rolling promontory formed by the Pakenham Mountains.

While digging a well on his farm near Pakenham in September 1906, Patrick Cannon struck bone in a deeply buried shell layer. It was part of the White whale skeleton buried thousands of years before. Rev. J. R. H. Warren of Pakenham heard about the find and visited Cannon’s farm. Shortly after, he informed J. F. Whiteaves, a vertebrate paleontologist (student of fossils) with the Geological Survey of Canada, that the specimen lay beneath 14 feet of blue clay.

A nearly perfect skull, a series of neck and dorsal vertebrae, in addition to a few other fragments and samples of mixed clay and shells were recovered before the well was lined with stone. Whiteaves, having borrowed the specimens from Cannon, wrote a brief description of the find in the Ottawa Naturalist of 1907. Since that time, the location of the fossil was virtually unknown until 1963 when a local historian, Mrs. Verna Koss McGiffen, published a book called “Pakenham, Ottawa Valley Village 1823-1860.” A photograph in the book shows a partial white whale skeleton obviously the one collected by Patrick Cannon in 1906. Mrs. McGriffen noted that the specimens were in the possession of J. A. Herrick, Cannon’s nephew. Mr. Herrick received the specimen in 1958, when Cannon’s farm was sold. The fossils were located in a box in a hay loft. and Mr. and Mrs. Herrick donated the remains to the National Museums of Canada. Hide article text (OCR)

Mr. and Mrs. Herrick kindly donated the specimen to the National Museums of Canada because of its combined geological and historical value. Now the fossil has been repaired, preserved and catalogued.  It was the first whale to be found in the Ottawa area and was discovered during well digging operations.

Fossils and Geology of Lanark County, Ontario 

Photos from Fossils and Geology of Lanark County

img (9)

A photograph of the Cranium and lower jaws appears in a history of Pakenham published by Verna Ross McGiffin (V. R. McGiffin, 1963, Pakenham, Ottawa Valley Village, 1823-1860, Mississippi Publishers, Pakenham, Ontario.) 

These relatively small whales are found mainlv in Arctic inshore waters and now extend southward on the Atlantic roast to the fiulf of St. Lawrence. Mnnv lived in the Champlain Sea, according to the number of fossils found.

Odd history almonte gazette – Sept 1906

At the north end of Hudson Bay is an island about the size of the State of Maine, which is called Southampton Island, on which has been discovered a lost tribe of Eskimos, which have been without intercourse with ether human beings for centuries, and until a few years ago had never seen a white man. 

Apparently these people have dwelt there since before the time of Columbus;. They are still in the stone age owning no metals. They grow no plants, and their homes are built by Ptting together the great jaws of the whale and covering them over with skins. In the middle of this dwelling is the familiar elevated place on which stands the lamp. With this they cook, light their dwelling, melt snow and dry their clothes. 

The whale is their chief means of subsistence. They use the bone in a variety of ways, even making their cups and buckets by being in shape and sewing on the bottom. The  tribe is composed of fifty-eight individuals about evenly divided between the sexes. They speak a dialect peculiar to themselves and  that is not spoken by any other tribes of Eskimos.

 A fact which shows the perfect isolation of the community is evidenced by their ignorance of soapstone.,. But as the people of this lost tribe are in ignorance of such a stone they make their receptacles from slabs of limestone, which they glue together in rectangular shapes by mixing deer’s blood and grease…

Also read-

Whale Sightings Outside Smiths Falls– Part 2

The Mystery of the Masonic Rock – Pakenham

-Prehistoric Pakenham whale on display in Almonte click

Catriona DavidsonWhen we were excavating for new foundations the shovel brought up layers of thousands of tiny shells, maybe 3’ below grade, a bit like cockle shells, but the size of a pinky nail. They would crumble after a few days of drying out, sadly.

Brent Eades=

Trivia time again. I had an email from the Canadian Museum of Nature today telling me that this is on display in Ottawa and will soon be on tour around the country. What is it and where was it found? There’s a local angle 🙂

Also read-Whale Sightings Outside Smiths Falls– Part 2

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

3 responses »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s