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Whale Ahoy! Arctic Expedition Makes First Sighting
A bowhead whale surfaces near the ship Arctic Endeavor.
Credit: Outi Tervo.

The shout went up in the perpetual twilight of the midnight sun: A whale!

Outi Tervo, a marine biologist aboard a research vessel forging north through perilous, ice-laden seas spotted the giant about a week into a monthlong Arctic expedition aimed at tracking the region's little-studied whale migrations.

Minutes later, sound recordings and photographs confirmed Tervo had spotted a bowhead whale , the first sighting of the species during the expedition's journey through Baffin Bay, the vast stretch of frigid ocean that lies between Greenland's western coastline and Canada.

Although researchers haven't actually seen any more bowheads since then, the whales have made their presence known. In the intervening days since last Friday's (June 17) sighting, the team aboard the Arctic Endeavor has made several more recordings of bowhead whales' remarkable underwater chatter, the New York Times reported.

And since very little is known about the once-rare whale species' Arctic wanderings, the recordings may offer invaluable data on bowheads' summertime migrations northward, along Greenland's coast.

"Anything we can collect is still more than we've ever had before for this population," Tervo told the New York Times.

Bowhead whale populations are increasing, and stand somewhere above 10,000 worldwide, though hard numbers are difficult to nail down. However, that number is less than one-fourth the estimated number of whales that once roamed Arctic seas before centuries of whaling took their toll.

The Arctic whale survey, backed by the Pew Environment Group's Oceans North Canada, is also tracking narwhals, the so-called "unicorns of the sea," and beluga whales, as they journey toward Canada's Lancaster Sound.