Monday, September 14, 2015

Don's Blog Greenland IV Whales 1

On July 22 the crew on the bridge began seeing dolphins and some whales.  The Denmark Strait is the body of water between Iceland and Greenland. It connects the Arctic Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean and is 300 miles long and 180 miles wide at its narrowest. The cold East Greenland Current passes through the strait and carries ice south into the North Atlantic. Greenlanders call their home Kalaallit  Nunaat, the land of people. The isolated east coast of Greenland is largely dependent on subsistence hunting and fishing and is well separated from the more populated southern and western coast.

Our trip across the Denmark Strait has been uneventful with 3 to 4 foot swells and sunny days. 

Dolphins are in the toothed family of whales. The dolphins allegedly have prominent beaks and cone shaped teeth. As you can see from my images I cannot see the head or even much in the way of markings. The dolphins feed in groups and followed alongside the boat for long periods of time. The dolphin and whale watch period can be described as festive. We were all over the ship - fore and aft, above and below the outside decks. There was no telling where the next whale would surface.

The whales that were identified by the experts were Baleen Whales which are filter feeding species. These whales possess many rows of keratinous
baleen that hang down from the roof of the mouth. The inside edge of each plate has a fringe of dense bristles. The plates overlap forming an efficient sieve all around the edge of the mouth. The water filtered in through the baleen contains  small fish and krill and the whale's huge muscular tongue moves this food to the back of the mouth where it is swallowed. Different species of baleen whales have different sizes of baleen filter plates that allow them to coexist and yet feed on different prey. 

Although someone identified a blue whale which is the largest of all whales, averaging 81 feet in length, it was too far away to take a picture. This is a fin whale which is the second largest whale averaging 70 feet in length. It is known as the greyhound of the sea because of its swimming speed. 

The spouting of all the whales was most amazing. Most of the spouts produced fine sprays of sea water which rose high into the air.

Most of the whales were long dark forms on the ocean far from the ship. In the time we were enjoying these dark shapes I acquired almost no ability to make an identification distinction.

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