When I started working as a guide around Spitsbergen, I was often asked if we were going to see any whales during the trip. My answer was always that Spitsbergen is too far north and that it was not likely that we would see any other whales as Minke Whale and Beluga. Large whales were only very rarely seen in the waters around Spitsbergen. Historically Bowhead Whales were very common, but after the whaling in the 17th and 18th century these whales were all but extinguished here. Occasionally we see Fin Whales or, even rarer, Blue Whales, but that’s for the very lucky few.
This year things seem to be different. Why, we don’t know, but we have seen large whales every trip now… Only two days after our experience with the Blue Whale, we found a group of around 6 Humpback Whales, a species that I’d only seen twice before this season. This was already my 4th encounter with them this season…
Humpback Whales have really long migrations, between their breeding areas around the equator and their feeding areas in the polar areas. Spitsbergen is a feeding area, while they breed in winter around the Azores. Our whales where feeding on zooplankton, which they filter out of the water with their baleens. They have several methods of herding this food source together. Kittiwakes feed on the same and take advantage of the work of the whales and gather in the same places to get their share.
In this picture I tried to combine these two in one image.