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Too many narwhals to count

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A narwhal (Monodon monoceros) surfacing for breath in the Arctic, Canada. © WWF / Paul Nicklen, National Geographic Stock

My last watch on the Arctic Tern 1 was from 2-4AM on August 30. I was on deck with Pascal, first mate. We were motoring the sailboat into Eclipse Sound, there was no wind, the ocean completely calm. We glided through many fog patches, straining our eyes in the half darkness searching for growlers and ice bergs. A few seabirds were active even at this time of night, including the occasional dovekie, the smallest seabird in the Canadian Arctic. At some point during my watch the almost full moon rose, its light diffused by the fog.

We noticed some ripples on the port side – seals? Then more ripples with the arch of a surfacing whale – narwhals! We watched them pass, traveling in the opposite direction. Too many to count, better to enjoy the encounter.  Eclipse Sound is well known for its large population of narwhal. WWF has partnered with the Pond Inlet Mittimatalik Hunter and Trapper Organization and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to study narwhal. For the past two years satellite tags have been attached to narwhal to study their movements. Narwhal are a sea ice associated species. Unlike the beluga and orca, narwhal remain north in Baffin Bay throughout the winter, feeding amongst the pack ice floes and leads. A resident species of the Last Ice Area.

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