Whale watching @ Vesterålen

The Vesterålen are a good spot to see whales the whole year round. Nevertheless we just managed to get on the last trip of the year before the winter season starts around Christmas. The Whale Safari start from Andenes next to the lighthouse.

Stefan, our Swiss guide and his little whale

But first we went on a tour through the museum where we learned a lot about the type of whale living here. West of Andenes the edge of the continental shelf is very close. At this edge the sea suddenly descends to 1800 metres depth forming the Bleik Canyon. This area provides a lot of food for marine animals as giant squid and deep sea fish which are the diet of the sperm whale.

Skeleton of a sperm whale

After our tour through the museum we went on board and left the harbour heading straight for this underwater canyon, where big male sperm whales are to be found regularly.

Our two guides gave us frequent updates on the situation of our search for the whales.

Tea, coffee and biscuits where provided during the trip. But not all passengers enjoyed the ride over the waves and turned very pale, suffering of sea sickness.

On this trip we also learned that not all white birds are seagulls. The ones passing us at sea were actually fulmars (German: Eissturmvogel), related to the albatross. Its wing span is over 1 metre. Apart from its breeding time, the fulmars spend their life at sea, adapted perfectly to flying in strong winds.

As soon as we reached the deep sea area where the whales are to be found, the crew started to listen to the under water microphones, watching out for the typical click sound the sperm whale makes.

We had to go further and further, but still no sound of a whale. We stopped a couple of times to make it easier to identify the click sounds but nothing was coming through the microphones.

Captain looking concerned
Stefan, our Swiss guide, watching the surface of the ocean

The oldest member of the crew was the father of the captain with 94 years. He was looking out, as were our guides and all the passenger to spot the blowing of a whale somewhere out there.

And finally there it was! The clicking sound had shown the captain the direction and the first sperm whale breathing at the surface was spotted.

The whales emerge from their long dives to breath for about 10 minutes, before they go down again to look for food. A shout from the crew warned us in time, so we would be prepared to watch the fluke rise before the whale was gone for another long dive.

Everybody was happy that we finally had managed to spot one of these huge animals. But the ship was already heading in the direction of the sounds coming from a different animal.

Rainbow showing the way to the whale

The fluke is used to identify different individuals as its shape, colour and notches are unique like a human fingerprint. The crew also took pictures to check if it is one of the known individuals spotted in this area.

Everybody was happy that we now had spotted 2 different whales and we were on our way back, when our first whale appeared again not far from us and we could watch him a second time breath and finally go on his next dive, showing us his fluke one last time.

Somebody didn’t get sea sick

The blow of a sperm whale is forward and to the left, as it has only one blow hole on this side. It is between 2-5 metres high and therefore good to spot during calm sea.

The sperm whale is an animal of extremes: the largest toothed whale with up to 20 metres long and 57 tonnes weight, he is also amongst the deepest diving mammals down to 1800 metres depth and has the biggest head in the animal kingdom with 35% of its body length. Luckily they also produce the loudest animal sounds with up to 245dB so we could make them out with the underwater microphones.

From Andenes we had to go 36 km out which was very far to spot a whale in this area. 3 times we could watch the whale at the surface and then dive down showing his beautiful fluke. Our tour took 6 hours, which is much longer than normally. We were grateful for the effort the crew made to show us these huge mammals in their natural habitat.

Tired and cold we reached the harbour of Andenes again. A wonderful experience and very well organised by Whale Safari Andenes.

3 thoughts on “Whale watching @ Vesterålen”

  1. So schöne Bilder! Wale sind immer ein tolles Erlebnis, hatten wir auch schon und es ist unglaublich beeindruckend. Alles Liebe (aus der Quarantäne leider! Aber alles gut, alle gesund) Ulli

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