Polar Expeditions – Know Your Whales

Many species of whale migrate back to the Arctic during the summer months when the vast areas of winter sea ice have melted. The nutrient rich waters and churning currents of the Arctic and sub-Arctic seas provide the perfect environment for these iconic animals to feed. If you are planning to take a boat cruise whilst on your polar expeditions, you will be in the perfect position to see these magnificent creatures up close. Read on for a list of the whales you may be lucky enough to see.

The Bowhead Whale

Bowhead Whales, otherwise known as “Bowheads” are a large species of baleen whale which do not migrate out from the Arctic waters. They have a light underside and are a dark grey on the back. Their name is taken from the bowed appearance of their mouths. The species’ most significant features are the elevated nostrils and distinctive lack of a dorsal fin. The most often sighted whale on polar expeditions in the Arctic area, the Bowhead spends most of its life near to the southern winter ice boundary.


Humpback Whales, recognized by their long flippers and distinctive hump located just above a pair of small dorsal fins, are another species of baleen whale that can be found feeding on the abundance of krill in the cold Arctic oceans. Being a very active and social whale, they often swim together in small groups called pods. Whilst on your polar expeditions, you may be lucky enough to view this graceful creature, whose distinctive song can be heard underwater by other whales many miles away.

Fin Whale

The Fin Whale is the second largest species of whale in the world. This impressive mammal has a long, slender body which allows it to move relatively quickly underwater. It is a brownish-grey colour on top with a lighter underbelly that has pleated grooves running from its chin down to the navel. Often sighted on polar expeditions, this whale was once heavily hunted but is now on the endangered species list.


Often referred to as the white whale, this small species of whale is insulated by a thick layer of blubber which makes up almost half its weight. This protective layer allows the Beluga to store energy and provides it with excellent thermal protection. Whale watchers on polar expeditions will often spot these creatures swimming between the Arctic icebergs and ice floes commonly found in the northern oceans.

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