They do exist!

The Yeti, Bigfoot, the Monster of Loch Ness, all mythical animals that most likely do not exist. Until today, I had added one more animal to this list. One that features is many books about Arctic wildlife, but one that I had never seen in my 18 seasons in the Arctic: the Narwhal. The Unicorn of the North as it’s called because of its long forward-facing tusk is very shy and elusive. On Spitsbergen it’s rarely seen, chances are a bit better on Greenland, but here they are hunted by Inuit hunters, which makes them even shyer. In all my years in the Arctic, the closest I got was some waves in the water at several kilometres distance (which could have been anything for all I knew) and something surfacing for a split second next to our boat that could only have been a Narwhal if you exclude everything it definitely wasn’t. But that wasn’t good enough for me. So no Narwhals on my list.

Not my best picture ever, but definitely Narwhal!!

Until today that is! I was just walking in the lounge when someone said that a whale had been seen. I headed to the bridge to find out what kind when I heard the announcement that it had been identified as some Narwhal! A quick adrenaline rush made me forget the back pains that had kept me in bed for some days, and I quickly went to my cabin to grab my camera and binoculars. Back outside, they were still there. Honestly, they didn’t show much, and it’s a bit like a Beluga sighting: very exciting to see this species, but they don’t show a lot. And where a Beluga is white and easy to see in the darker waters, Narwhals are dark grey, which blends in nicely with the water. But that doesn’t matter, I’ve seen and photographed Narwhals!! The last of the characteristic Arctic whale trio (together with the Beluga and Bowhead Whale) and in fact the last Arctic marine mammal from this side of the Arctic that I hadn’t seen. There is definitely room for improvement (I didn’t see the tusks, most likely these were females) and the pictures can be better, but I finally can say: “Narwhal exist, I’ve seen them with my own eyes!”


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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