Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Another challenging yet, eventually, quite rewarding day spent out in the Eyjafjordur. The first 3/4 of the tour were, indeed, quite unsuccessful: we headed North, arriving almost to the entrance of the fiord without seeing any cetaceans. With a beautiful sunny day and calm weather it was, however, an impressive tour following both the East and the West coasts of this impressive fiord. It wasn’t until the very end that, finally, we spotted an impressive pod of 5 Humpback whales. Better than that, upon our arrival we gazed them feeding in the surface (a particular behavior called lunge feeding), and showing aerial behaviors such as pectoral waving and a peduncle throwing at the very end! Although we spent a rather short time with the animals, the waiting was definitely totally worth it!

Pictures and text by Alberto Alejandro

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

After a couple of difficult days, we had a wonderful winter day with clear skies, no wind, and the sun was, finally, shinning above the entire fiord. It didn’t take too long until we found our first cetacean of the tour, a humpback whale. The individual was chilling around, going for slightly long dives, and giving us a nice show for more than 40 minutes. Afterwards we tried to find some other whales but unfortunately we didn’t find any, so we came back on our steps to enjoy the Humpback for a few more minutes.  We also got to see a small pod of Harbour porpoises quite close to Akureyri. A wonderful way to end our trip.

Pictures and text by Alberto Alejandro

Monday, 21 January 2019

What an amazing tour we had this morning! We sailed out in the middle of a blizzard, so for the first half of the tour we couldn’t spot anything. It wasn’t until we reached the east coast of Hrísei, the island in the middle of Eijafjordur, that we found the first cetaceans of the day: a pod of 7-10 White beaked dolphins. Afterwards we circled the island, finding a big pod of harbor porpoises and, finally, a couple of Humpback whales! Even better, on our way back we encountered a third whale right in front of Akureyri, a few meters away from the coast. Again, a well spent time in the fiord!

Pictures and text by Alberto Alejandro

Sunday, 20 January 2019

A rather complicated tour the one of this morning! Despite we enjoyed clear skies and the ambience temperature was not exceptionally low for Icelandic Winter standards, the wind was clearly playing against us today. We saw the first and only whale of the trip about 30 minutes after departure. Although we experienced a nice close encounter, we were not able to keep tracking the individuals due to the wind, so we proceeded our travel towards the North of the fiord. We went as far away as past the island of Hrísey (my personal record in the fiord!) but unfortunately, we were not able to spot any other whales. Nonetheless, we enjoyed an amazing view of the scenery, as the winter cold sun was throwing its dim rays over the mountain ranges that surround the fiord.

Pictures and text by Alberto Alejandro

Saturday, 19 January 2019

We sailed out today on a fairly windy morning, although we enjoyed clear skies and, by the end of the tour, the wind was calming down as well. Our Eyjafjordur Humpback whales were waiting for us quite far away: it was only after the first hour of the trip had passed that we spotted in the distance 3 blows produced by 3 different individuals. The animals were indeed coming into the fiord, so we spent a nice time tracking them down and sailing alongside them. We even got to identify one of the individuals as Jackson, a well-known Humpback whale that has been seen frequently for the last few months. All and all, another amazing trip with these wonderful giants of the sea!

Pictures and text by Alberto Alejandro

Thursday, 17 January 2019

We started the tour from slowly breaking through thick layer of ice in the Fjord. We passed the hot waterfall and industrial part of the harbor when we spotted our first humpback whale. It was a “lazy fluker”, which means he didn’t show up his tail when going for a dive, so we couldn’t identify the whale - however most likely it’s the same indvidual that we’ve been seeing in this area since last week. He was going for longer dives and changing directions so it was not easy to follow him and eventually we decided to head further out to look for more animals. Such an unsatisfying feeling when the moment we moved away, he showed up again on the side of the boat and went for a dive - finally showing us the fluke! but at this point we were much ahead of him and taking ID picture was already off the table. Well hopefully next time! We went beyond Hjalteyri and around Hauganes we found three more Humpback whales! Great encounter, as two of them that we recognized - Jackson and Penguin were moving together and the third whale was close but keeping the distance. Unfortunatelly we didn’t manage to take ID pictures of the third one but it could be one from the group we’ve seen yesterday with Penguin. In total 4 whales today and so much to observe tomorrow!

Pictures and text: Ania Wójcik

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

What a great day to be out there! We’ve begun the tour from spotting two Northern Bottlenose Whales just around industrial part of the harbor. One of the whales did spy-hopping - a very rare behaviour to see and it happend right in front of us! He did that two times and disappeared in the water. The other whale was a bit further and we’ve seen them together few more times. While we were waiting for them to show up again we spotted a humpback whale very close to the harbor. We stayed with all three of them for a while and head out north to look for more animals. The wind was picking up and fog was not helping in searching but we spotted another Humpback whale around the buoy before Hjalteyri. We observed him diving few times before spotting a group of whales about 700 meters away from us - of course we headed in their direction! There we found Jackson - a whale we’ve seen yesterday and a group of three whales swimming together. Stunning view to see their synchronized movements just on the side of the boat. In total we spotted today 8 whales including 2 different species - I simply can’t wait to see what we’ll find tomorrow!

Pictures and text: Ania Wójcik

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Cold and windy morning in the Fjord. We had amazing light as the sun was shining through thick layer of clouds and fog but it was not easy to spot wildlife today. It took us about 1 hour to find a Humpback Whale, a little behind Hjalteyri and that was Jackson - a whale we’ve been seeing for a few days now in the area, but also a whale that is our regular visitor since 2016. We stopped two times on the way as we spotted at least one more Humpback whale around the buoy before Hjalteyri but as the wind was very strong and waves were picking up it was impossible to follow this one. We stayed with Jackson for most of the tour and we had two very nice encounters as the animal was calmly floating on the waves and two times he went for a dive just on the side of our boat. Challenging tour, but in the end we’ve seen two Humpback whales so it was definitely worth going out there!

Pictures and text: Ania Wójcik

Monday, 14 January 2019

What a GREAT start of the week! 5 whales in the surroundings of stunning winter landscape in the Fjord. Cold morning with -12 degrees served us completely flat ocean for most of the tour which gave us fantastic conditions to observe the wildlife of Eyafjordur. As soon as we passed ice-covered area we spotted our first whales and these were Northern Bottlenose Whales! They were active and surfacing often, giving us many opportunities to watch them. While observing them for a while we spotted a blow of a Humpback Whale about 800 meters away from us in the direction of Hjalteyri - we headed out to take a closer look and it was actually two individuals of Humpback whales - Jackson and Moonshine this time, calmly moving around us. We've seen them several times going for deeper dives with showing us their beautiful flukes. At the very end of the tour when we were already in the harbor of Akureyri we spotted one more whale - and it was a Humpback whale, most likely the same individual we’ve been seeing in past few days as he still didn’t show us his fluke. Hopefully at some point he will :-)

Pictures and text by: Ania Wójcik

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Today we had a true winter experience in the Fjord - everything is covered with snow again and it was snowing from the very beginning til the very end of the tour. Just behind the industrial part of the harbor we spotted our first Humpback Whale that was most likely the same “Lazy Fluker” that we’ve seen yesterday - as we waited few times for him and didn’t see the fluke even once. We decided to head out north to look for more animals and first thing we’ve seen it was a Northern Bottlenose Whale! This couldn’t make us happier as he was active and feeding, this time we’ve seen just one whale, but also the waves where not helping to take a better look if it’s the same individual as we’ve seen before or possibly a new one. A very rare view to see, when about 100 meters away from us he did what we call a tail slap! he took out of the water his whole tail. Unfortunately this show lasted just seconds and we didn’t capture that on the camera but it was simply incredible to see. He was going for shorter dives but changing directions a lot so it was not easy to follow and we decided to leave him and move further out. It took us a while to fight over the waves and we almost reached Hjalteyri when we’ve noticed another Humpback Whale just behind us. Soon another one joined and we had two individuals very close to us in the same area and they both turned out to be whales we know pretty well - Jackson, that is our regular visitor in the Fjord since 2016 and Aretha Frankfin - a whale that we’re seeing on and off since the summer of 2018. We stayed with them until we had to head back, but that was not the end of the tour as on the way back we spotted two more Humpback whales and one of them gave us another incredible show doing what we call a lunge feeding! In total, we’ve seen today about 5 individuals of Humpback whales and at least one Northern Bottlenose Whale! Amazing tour!

Pictures and Text: Ania Wójcik

Saturday, 12 January 2019

On cloudy morning in Akureyri we left the harbor without any surprises. We started from looking out for Northern Bottlenose Whales that we’ve seen yesterday but we couldn’t spot them so we moved on, further north. This does not necessarily mean they are not there any more, but at this point we can’t know that for sure - like they say “prepare for the worst, hope for the best” - we will continue monitoring the situation again tomorrow. It took us not more than half an hour to see our first Humpback whale that seemed to be a young individual, as he wasn’t very big and he was definitely what we call a “Lazy Fluker” - he didn’t show us his fluke not even once and we’ve seen him going for a dive at least several times! We decided to leave him and headed out further north where we found another Humpback whale! and possibly one more were in the distance, but as the wind was picking up and all of the sudden we became surrounded by strong fog that was limiting visibility, the conditions were not the easiest to spot the animals. We stayed with this whale for some time and it was a great decision as suddenly he popped up right next to us! What an encounter! The whale seemed to be very relaxed, surfacing often, he kept us company till the end of the tour. On the way back we spotted one more Humpback Whale, but unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to get closer to him anymore. Great day to be out there, by the time we came back everything was covered in the snow. Winter is back :-)

Pictures and Text: Ania Wójcik

Friday, 11 January 2019

We usually go out in the sea to experience the joy, the awe and the pure excitement of observing whales in their natural environment, in that world that is rightfully theirs, where we should act as respectful guests at best. So we did today, as usually, thanks to the presence of at least 6 Humpback whales feeding close to the Hjalteri area of the fiord. However, today was also a day of bittersweetness and sorrow for what we saw right at the beginning of the tour. For the last few months we have been enjoying the presence of a special guest species in the fiord, a deep diving cetacean species known as Northern Bottlenose Whale. The sight of these animals (up to 4 individuals in total, among which a calf was usually present) is always a remarkable experience, being such a criptic and unknown species for us marine biologists. However the encounters with these animals have been decreasing, the calf has not been seen in a long time, and when we spotted today just 2 of them… we understood their truly dreadful situation. The animals, as can be observed in the pictures, exhibit the so-called “peanut shape” in their heads, plus the spinal column and ribs bones are exageratedly visible through their skin. This proves an obvious malnutrition (or total lack of nutrition) that has most likely led to the death of the calf and the 4th individual, and will most likely lead to the death of these two whales in the upcoming days. Although it is always difficult to assess, this tragic event could be related to the recent numerous cases of strandings and deaths of this and similar cetacean species all across the Northeast Atlantic Ocean. A devastating trend that has been going on since the beginning of the last summer, 2018. The causes are always difficult to determine, but this and related deep-diving species of cetaceans rely almost entirely on their hearing systems to navigate, feed and communicate, and are always extremely sensitive to strong underwater noises such as those created by sonars. Something has (and is still) been going on, something that is obviously harming these animals and altering their behaviours, and that has undoubtably a human origin.

We have just one world. And despite the names we may give it, just one ocean. And it is time we realize it and act as if we cared.

Pictures and text by Alberto Alejandro

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Finally, the winter has given us a day to remind us how bold we are by doing whale watching tours in the North of Iceland, in January. We faced a strong wind that kept increasing continuously until the end of our trip. The sky was, however, becoming clearer and clearer, and we enjoyed a beautiful landscape lighted by astonishing yellows and reds from dawn. The ride was… well, interesting. The good thing is that, definitely, our Humpback whales are still in our main sighting area (we spotted 3-4 individuals overall). However, the wind was so strong that the waves were continuously hiding the animals, and the blows were particularly difficult to follow. We are looking forward for this strong gale to fade away soon, so we can keep having the best Whale Watching Winter tours in Iceland!

Picture and text by Alberto Alejandro

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Woooooow. First tour this year when I felt like taking pictures is simply not enough! A cold morning in Akureyri greeted us with ice in the harbor - slowly crushing through the ice we begun the tour as usual. It was barely said that we move around the longest Fjord in Iceland and it might take a while before we see something - when 2 Northern bottlenose whales poped up right in font of us! Amazing and heartbreaking view - as the couple was unbelievably skinny. An incredible encounter as the animals seemed calm and they were surfacing water very often. All of the sudden they started moving towards us and end up just meters away on the side of the boat . We stayed with them not more than 20 min when in the distance of about 700 meters away from us we’ve noticed a blow of a Humpback whale! As we got closer it turned out to be not one but 3 of them!! a stunning view to see them moving almost synchronically. We’ve been observing them feeding when northern bottlenose whales came back again and we had amazing show of two species on both sides of the boat - Humpback whales on the side and northern bottlenose whales a bit further away. This was one of our best tours with northern bottlenose whales for sure. Unforgettable!

Pictures and Text: Ania Wójcik

Monday, 7 January 2019

What an amazing tour we had today! We went out with some northerly wind and a bit of swell, and for the first hour of the tour we sailed at a constant speed of 13-14 knots. At some point we spotted 2 blows about 2-3 km away from our position. Upon arrival and to our surprise, we encountered 2 different groups in the location: A group with 5 individuals and another with 2, both of them traveling together for quite a while. Another one, Jackson, was close to the same area travelling solo. Not only that but we also enjoyed a break from the wind, and even the sun rose for a few minutes, shedding a beautiful yellow light over the entire bay. A remarkable day to remember!

Pictures and text by Alberto Alejandro

Saturday, 5 January 2019

A windy and cloudy morning in the fiord. It did not take long until we found the first individual, a juvenile humpback whale that was getting closer and closer to the southern area of the fiord. However, it became quite difficult to follow this individual, so we continued our travel. It took more than an hour to find, finally, another couple of individual. This time we got to spend more time with the whales, as they were easier to track than the previous one. Unfortunately the wind picked up on our position, so we started heading back to the harbour of Akureyri. Nonetheless, it was a great time spent in the fiord!

Pictures and text by Alberto Alejandro.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Another windy day in the Fjord. The ocean was bumpy and it took us about 40 min to find our first Humpback Whale but the one we found was actually the whale we know quite well - it’s called Aretha Frankfin, as we’ve seen it for the first time in the Fjord this year in the summer time, on the date when a singer Aretha Franklin has passed away and we decided to honor that by naming a whale after her. Humpback whales are great singers so the name suits quite well. The whale seemed to be very relaxed and didn’t mind our presence - at some point he has just stopped not further than 20 meters away from us, calmly surfacing the water. The conditions today were not the easiest to spot animals, but we had a beautiful sunset as background and at the very end of the tour we spotted another Humpback whale but this one seemed to be much more shy and was going for longer dives. They both seemed to be busy feeding so to not disturb them we headed back to Akureyri.

Pictures and Text: Ania Wójcik