On a gorgeous day, three days ago, I took a couple from Switzerland over to Victor Bay, where people from Arctic Bay go to escape from the hustle and bustle. While talking to a fellow over there he happened to mention that there had been Narwhal there the night before. One of the goals of this couple was to see Narwhal and we had made arrangements for them to boat out the next day (a disaster but that is another story). As we walked back to the truck the fellow we had been talking to called out "Clare! Qillilugaq!"... there were Narwhal in the bay, just offshore. Ah yes, just as I planned.
There was a small pod of Narwhal (Monodon monocerus), (cows, calfs and small males) feeding on large schools of Arctic Cod (you can see a school in this photo), with a large flock of Glaucous Gulls (Larus hyperboreus), Thayer's Gulls (Larus thayeri) and Northern Fulmar (Fulmaris glacialis) swirling above. As we watched the scene unfold I noticed a lone Ivory Gull (Pagophila eburnea) was amongst the other birds. Sure would make great TV.
We watched until they began to move off and then headed back. When we came back later that evening we were treated to an even better display. Some ice had moved into the same little cove they had been feeding in, and standing on the point they were literally metres from us. I realized of course that I had left our hydrophone at home and sped back to town to get it. Working with it off shore is not the best method, and between waves, ice and the mic bouncing on the bottom there was a fair amount of background noise. But you could hear their amazing array of sounds, which various people listening discribed as "a squeaky door" "growling stomachs" and "rubbing a wet inner tube".
As incredible as that was the best was yet to come the following evening. We went over around 9:00 o'clock and there were hundreds of Narwhal just off shore. The night was warm, sunny and calm and the sea like glass. It was incredible! Narwhal were feeding, resting on the surface, and thrashing around. Looking one way all you could see were spouts backlit with the sun, the other... whales coursing through the water. Again it was mostly cows and calfs but every once in awhile you'd see tusking behaviour, and at one point it looked like one whale pushed one that was displaying it's tusk out of the water. We stayed, entranced, until after 1:00 am.
Incredibly, the golfers saw a pod of Killer Whale off out of view of most of the Narwhal watchers. Cetaceans everywhere. And people wonder why I live here.