Sea day

Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale

Days at sea are normally not my favorites. They are good to catch up with things that have to be done but you normally don’t have the time for (like a little extra sleep), give or attend some lectures, socialize with passengers or help out with identifying plants or birds on pictures made by the guests. Not to bad, but I really prefer to be out somewhere. Fortunately we don’t have too many sea days on Spitsbergen. People fly out to Longyearbyen, so we can immediately start with our trip. However sometimes they can’t be avoided, like on this trip. We encountered a lot of ice in the south eastern parts of the archipelago, forcing us to go all around Edgeøya. And even with the big detour we still had a lot of ice, slowing us down and forcing us to continue sailing towards Hornsund in the south west. The visibility was also really poor, with most of the time dense fog covering the ship, so there really was not much for us to do…

I was just having a small rest in my cabin, waiting for lunch to be announced, when I heard colleagues of mine talk over the radio about Humpback Whales in front of the ship. That was a quick end to my rest. I grabbed my bino’s and headed to the bridge. The fog had lifted enough to see two or three Humpbacks right in front of the ship. I quickly grabbed my camera and went out on deck. Normally my first task is to make sure all guests see the wildlife. In this case that wasn’t really a problem. Wherever you looked there were whales, all around the ship. In groups of three to four they were bubble net feeding. They went under water and a little bit later you saw the first bubbles coming up, making a nice circle at the surface. With this cylinder of bubbles they trap krill and small fish, which they eat by swimming through the net with their mouth open, closing it then they surface. They take a huge gulp of water and then pushing the water out though their baleens with their tongue. The krill and fish stay behind, which they now can easily eat. And we, not too far away had great views of this very characteristic behavior, which you normally only see in nature documentaries. I had seen it once before, but never with a this large group of whales. We spent over an hour looking at the different groups, all really amazed by these large numbers.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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