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Sperm Whale Monitoring on Arctic Sense Expedition

Original post: Another World Adventures

09/07/2021
3mins read

At the beginning of June, an intrepid crew set off on the Arctic Sense – a scientific and communications expedition in the polar Atlantic. The expedition is split into four chapters and will see a rotating crew join the S.V. Barba to document marine life, with a particular focus on keystone Arctic and sub-Arctic whale species.

Chapter one of the Barba voyage saw the crew sail from Stavanger to Tromsø. This initial leg of the journey was designed to be a quick transit from southern to northern Norway. In surprisingly calm conditions the crew made good progress, with a quick stop off on the island of Alden for the crew to stretch their legs for a hike. 

Although the aim of the voyage is to monitor whales, they weren’t expecting to see them in the Helgelandscoast, but they met an old friend Hvaldimir. You might have heard of him, as the appearance of this white beluga whale in Norwegian waters wearing a Russian-marked harness caused quite a stir at the time. He had clearly been used to close contact with humans and has continued to seek out human contact in his new territory – the passing through of Barba was no exception. Hvladimir circled the boat, checked the propeller and bit the anchor chain, as well as poking his head out the water to look at the crew – what a unique experience with a whale in the wild!

Barba_Barba Saltstrømmen drone 4 (foto-tordkarlsen)-0380
Barba_20210614-DSC01138Spermwhale Bleik (foto-tordkarlsen-Barba.no)

After sailing through the world’s strongest tidal current – Saltstraumen – the weather picked up and the crew were able to practice their sailing skills. This included hoisting the sails and tight navigation; important skills to cement before the upcoming, more demanding ocean crossing.

Barba stopped at ports on her journey and even had the opportunity to visit the thousands of puffins on island Bleiksøya, but then it was time for the main work on this leg; it was time to search for sperm whales! After receiving insider information on whales being seen 20nm offshore, the team were able to target their search and, just after 10nm, the crew saw their first whale blow!

Barba_20210614-DSC01242Spermwhale Bleik (foto-tordkarlsen-Barba.no)
Barba_20210614-DSC01564Spermwhale Bleik (foto-tordkarlsen-Barba.no)

Sperm whales spend a large amount of time below the surface and only surface briefly before diving again, but the Barba team is prepared for this. They used their on-board hydrophone to listen to their echolocating clicks which they were using when hunting at depths of around 1000m – this gave the crew the insight into the whales behaviour and activity where they can’t be seen. A stop to the clicking meant a whale was returning to the surface and the team could go back to scanning the horizon! This work continued into the late evening, when they finally called it a night and headed for the final destination on this leg: Tromsø.

In Tromsø, the boat was moored for a couple of days of maintenance before the next chapter: Arctic Sense 2021 – Svalbard!


All photographs were taken by Tord Karlsen. Arctic Sense is an exciting collaborative four-month scientific and communications expedition in the polar Atlantic. Another World Adventures Director Larissa Clark is on the team as head of onshore operations.

Missed our first blog about Arctic Sense?: you can also read about this Unique Research Mission here.

Another World Adventures logo Larissa-Clark-sailing-across-the-Atlantic-Ocean

Hi I’m Larissa, a Co-Founder of Another World Adventures. Welcome to my blog Adventure365 where I curate a weekly pick of the best adventure travel writing and storytelling from around the web and share original stories from our team and adventure community. Think unusual destinations, expeditions, slow, solo and sustainable travel and epic journeys! Enjoy!

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