06-02 Poolepynten

walrus hauled out on the beach

2nd.June: Poolepynten

In the afternoon we sailed to Poolepynten where, although the wind and waves picked up, we were still able to set off in groups to visit the walrus.

The walrus, which are the only species of pinniped that have tusks, were hauled out on the beach in a big bundle of blubber and were growling and sleeping, and some were splashing in the water. The older males had impressive long tusks and many of them were flushed with a pink colouration, something that they do to regulate their body temperature.

The walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) is a large pinniped marine mammal with discontinuous distribution about the North Pole in the Arctic Ocean and subarctic seas of the Northern Hemisphere. Adult walrus are characterised by prominent tusks and whiskers, and considerable bulk: adult males in the Pacific can weigh more than 2,000 kilograms and, among pinnipeds, are exceeded in size only by the two species of elephant seals. Walrus live mostly in shallow waters above the continental shelves, spending significant amounts of their lives on the sea ice looking for benthic bivalve molluscs. Walruses are relatively long-lived, social animals, and are considered to be a “keystone species” in the Arctic marine regions.

In the evening just as most people were settling down to go to bed we had an exciting call from Ali on the bridge to say there were whale blows in the distance. We slowly sailed closer and discovered that these large blows belonged to the biggest animal in the world, the blue whale. One of the whales surfaced several times in front of the bow before leaving us. This was a very special first whale species to spot as blue whales are a rarity and even for many of the guides it was only their first or second encounter with them. It was a very spectacular end to a very successful first full day of the trip.

The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is a marine mammal and a baleen whale. Reaching a maximum confirmed length of 29.9 meters and weighing up to 199 tonnes, it is the largest animal known ever to have existed. The blue whale’s long and slender body can be of various shades of greyish-blue dorsally and somewhat lighter underneath. In general, blue whale populations migrate between their summer feeding areas near the poles and their winter breeding grounds near the tropics. Blue whales are filter feeders; their diet consists almost exclusively of krill. They are generally solitary or gather in small groups, and have no well-defined social structure other than mother-calf bonds. The fundamental frequency for blue whale vocalizations ranges from 8 to 25 Hz and the production of vocalizations may vary by region, season, behavior, and time of day. Orcas are their only natural predators.

St.Johnsfjord and Poolepynten

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