Five whale species you may encounter in Disko Bay
In beautiful Disko Bay and near Disko Island, you have the chance to spot several species of whale. Most often, you will see a dorsal fin or a several-meter-high blowout, but if you are lucky, you get to see when a 30-ton humpback whale makes a high jump above the surface. Hopefully, you will encounter one or some of these giants of the sea during a trip in Disko Bay.
Despite its clumsy appearance, the humpback whale is surprisingly agile. It is known for its high jumps that often place the entire 30-ton body above the water surface. A fully grown humpback whale measures about 15 meters and its remarkably long front fins of six meters allow it to maneuver easily in the water. The humpback whale belongs to the baleen whale species, which means it has a baleen instead of teeth. It is a comb-like organ used to filter food such as krill and small fish from the water. The name humpback whale comes from the small bumps that are located on the head, pectoral fins and lower jaw. The nodules are reshaped hair follicles that are often covered in barnacles. There is a large hump on its back, hence the name humpback whale. The humpback whale is also known for its song. Each male has its own song and sings mainly during the mating season. The humpback whale is a very good swimmer and moves between the colder waters at the poles in the summer and the more tropical ones closer to the equator in the winter. In a year, it can swim up to 16,000 kilometers. The humpback is the whale that you have the best chance of seeing in Disko Bay.
The minke whale is a relatively small whale that can be up to 10 meters long. Like the humpback whale, it is a baleen whale, which means it has a comb-like organ instead of teeth. Its fins and belly have distinct white markings, making it easy to identify. Minke whales can be seen in the fjords and along the south and west coast of Greenland. The best period to see it is between May and October. At regular intervals it comes to the surface to get air and if you are lucky you can see it jump. Most commonly, however, you’ll see the fin or a blowout.
The fin whale is the world's second largest mammal, only the blue whale is larger. It can be up to 27 meters long and weigh close to 100 tonnes. You have a chance to see the fin whale in the area around Uummannaq and in Disko Bay, but it can also be seen both further north and south. The fin whale has an incredible lung capacity and can dive for up to 20 minutes at a depth of 100-200 meters. It rarely shows its tail fin when it dives, but if you're lucky you can see it stop at the surface and make an about eight-meters-high blowout. Behind the dorsal fin stretches a ridge that has given the fin whale its nickname ”razorback”.
The bowhead whale is the longest living mammal on earth and some are said to live for over 200 years. With its 100 tons, it is also one of the world's heaviest whale species and with its large body it can break through the thick sea ice. The bowhead whale's blubber layer can be up to 75 centimeters thick and this helps it to live in colder waters. Another thing that distinguishes the bowhead whale is its huge arched mouth, the tongue alone weighs as much as an elephant. You have the best chance of seeing this gigantic prehistoric animal near Qeqertarsuaq on Disko Island. The best time is until the edge of spring around the month of April.
The pilot whale belongs to the oceanic dolphin family. Of the thirty or so species that exist, the pilot whale is the second largest, only the killer whale exceeds it in size. It is a social species that lives in groups of ten to hundreds of animals. Each group is believed to have a leader, hence the name pilot whale. The pilot whale has a robust body and a distinctive dorsal fin and can dive as deep as 600 meters. There are many reports worldwide of mass strandings of pilot whales. One theory as to why they swim into shallow water and get stuck is that if one whale gets sick, the whole pack swims in to keep it afloat. Another theory is that the magnetic fields outside the beaches are different and cause the whales to navigate incorrectly. Pilot whales use echo sounds to investigate the water and possible obstacles, and on a sandy beach the sound doesn't bounce back and reveal land until it's too late.
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