Experts at National Geographic describe the narwhal as the “unicorn of the sea.” This is because the most distinguishing characteristic of this creature is its huge tusk, which can reach up to 20-feet long, close to the length of a javelin. The tusk on a male is more prominent than that of a female. Scientists aren’t entirely sure what the tusk is used for; however, but they believe that it is used to attract mates and to discourage the competition from doing the same.
Narwhals are often found swimming in the cold waterways of the Arctic. They frequently inhabit the same area as the Inuit people, and they don’t always have a good relationship with those they share the area with. The Inuit people target the narwhal for their tusks and their outer layers. The outer layers are often eaten because they are a great source of vitamin C.
While humans hunt the narwhal, they aren’t the only thing these mammals need to worry about. If a moving ice pack traps a group of
The narwhals swim in packs of 20 to 30. The group is called a blessing. They swim together like this because it is their instinct, and there is safety in numbers. If a narwhal gets separated from the blessing, it can have deadly consequences.
The Lonely Narwhal
One narwhal got separated from the blessing and swam a long way alone. He made it to the St. Lawrence River, which is a vast waterway that begins at Lake Ontario and ends in the Atlantic Ocean. Since the narwhals’ territory doesn’t extend past Ungava Bay, a remote part of the world near the north of Quebec. This narwhal traveled the length of Newfoundland and Labrador to get as far south as he was.
On July 29, 2016, a group of researchers from the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM) was out on the water in the St. Lawrence River. There, they conducted studies on the whales that live in the waters. Because the water was so cold from November through May, their research needs to stop during these months. The boats cannot get through the frozen waters; therefore, the whales in the area cannot be tracked. In June, they head back out to the water to continue their research.
In July 2016, the researchers were following a pod of beluga whales that were swimming 150-miles downriver from Quebec City. It was a typical day at first, but when they saw something different about the pod of whales, they stayed in the area for over an hour.
The pod that they were watching was made up of about 80 whales, but this wasn’t what had them stunned. The lone narwhal that got separated from his blessing was there too. This young narwhal was lost and alone, but then he found some unexpected ocean allies, the beluga whales. This was a very unusual sight.
When the members of GREMM saw the narwhal with the belugas, it wasn’t just a one-time thing. A year later, the group spotted the narwhal with the belugas again. A year later, they found that he was still with his new friends. He never tried to find his blessing; instead, he found a new group to swim with. One member of GREMM says that they assumed that when they spotted the narwhal with the belugas that he had only been with them for a short time when they saw him. The fact that he was still with the group a year later and then two years later was shocking. When a narwhal gets separated from their blessing, they often swim until they are reunited or they find another blessing to join. They don’t usually swim with a blessing of beluga whales and are content with their situation. Staying with this blessing of belugas goes against everything that we know about these mammals.
The footage the group got on film was amazing. You could distinctly see the difference between the narwhal and the belugas whales. Researchers are shocked that the narwhal was able to swim with the belugas and become part of their blessing. Clearly, the lost narwhal understood that there