Posted by: Team - Bowhead whale | March 9, 2010

First song, ID-pictures and biopsies!

The weather was beautiful and calm when we stepped outside at 7 o’clock in the morning and started to arrange our trip out to the sea. The boats had to be pulled to Saqqaa harbour with snow scooters in order to get them into the water from the ice edge. Our captain Fari and our two matros Søren and Erik were ready with RV Porsild in the main harbour and while we sailed out, Abel and Mads fought their way through chunks of ice with their small boats.

Pulling the boat! Photo: C. Ilmoni

Our research vessel R/V Porsild in action. Photo: C. Ilmoni

We headed west towards an area where Abel had seen the whales only the day before. It was not too long before the first bowhead was spotted, actually several of them, but it was late in the afternoon when the first one started to sing. But finally yes, we have bowhead whale song from this year as well! We were using a new system of stereo recordings where the two hydrophones are each attached to an end of a T-shaped pole and lowered into the water. Using the time of arrival difference of the sound into the two hydrophones, and to my two ears, I was able to start to get a sense of from which direction the song was coming from. The song of this year has a scream in the first phrase and the second phrase sounds like a starter on a Arctic Cat snow scooter which refuses to work.

Bowhead whale surfacing close to Abel's boat. Photo: C. Ilmoni

The whales continued singing and meanwhile on the other boat Camilla was able to take ID pictures of the different individuals and Abel shot two biopsies from the direction we thought the song was coming from. Now we have to go through our notes and bits and pieces of the data to find out whether we have the sex of the singer. A successful day!

Heading back home! Photo: C. Ilmoni


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