Posted by: Team - Bowhead whale | May 7, 2010

Bowhead whale invasion outside Arctic Station

I was woken up by a telephone call from a friend saying that I should look out of my window. Indeed, immediately I could see 4 bowhead whales just outside the Arctic Station. Aningaaq and I rushed out to sea equipped with listening gear and a camera for ID pictures. The first half an hour was very quiet – we were sitting still in the boat listening to mainly silence interrubted by an occasional faint song note and the sound of a breaking iceberg and admiring the two bowhead whales swimming around our boat.

Bowhead whale with the Arctic Station in the background. Photo: O. Tervo

After listening enough of non singing whales we decided to try to get ID pictures of the two individuals we saw now and maybe even find the two other whales I had seen earlier in the morning. But behind an iceberg we were met by an incredible view! Suddenly we could count 2 whales surfacing right next to eachother, followed by two more and then two more. There were altogether 8 whales in area smaller than 20m by 20 m! Just turning around in the boat we could count 14 whales at the surface at the same time around us and our best estimate for the amount of whales in the area outside Arctic Station was 18-20 individuals.

Two bowhead whales surfacing right next to eachother. Photo: O. Tervo

After seeing this tight group I of course immediately deployed my hydrophone but the whales were not saying anything. I was making recordnings 10 meters away from 6-8 whales and they did not say anything which assures me that this was not a socially or sexually active group but a feeding group. The whales were very calm at the surface and many times Aningaaq placed us on top of the whale just gliding on free gear. We saw the whales next to us, under us and yet, the whales did never even touch our boat although they didnt seem to mind our presence either. We saw a lot of fluke-up dives and saw and smelled feces indicating that the whales were feeding in this very concentrated area. We got a lot of new ID pictures for our catalogue and I look forward sending them over to Camilla for proper inspection.

The fluke we could have touched. Photo: O. Tervo



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