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Canadians set to begin study of Narhwal migration

CommunityJames Hipkiss

Two Winnipeg-based explorers will spend a month on a converted crab trawler as part of the first scientific attempt to follow the migration of narwhals between the coasts of Greenland and Nunavut. Over 80% of the world's estimated 80,000 narwhals migrate across the North Water Polynya to Nunavut's Lancaster Sound every spring via a narrow vein of open ocean. Narwhals are small members of the whale family, known for their unicorn-like tusks. Until now no-one has attempted to study this migration up close. The shifting ice in this stretch of Baffin Bay is only navigable during a small window between the spring thaw and a rush of ice from the north later in the summer, making it a particularly dangerous endeavour.

On 3rd June (weather permitting) a crew of eight will attempt to make the crossing on a 15-metre trawler that is specially equipped to navigate icy channels. While the expedition's main goal is to chart the numbers of narwhals, belugas, bowheads and other whales it will also aim to monitor migrating whale sounds, survey seabirds and trawl for plankton as part of a polar bear food-chain study.