Screenshot 2020-03-10 at 14.14.48

Arctic’s iconic whales. National

Screenshot 2020-03-10 at 14.14.40On a bright May morning, a helicopter lifts off the Esperanza, a Greenpeace ship, and heads north, tracking the edge of the sea ice east of Greenland. Below us is Fram Strait, a deep ocean channel and one of the Arctic’s richest feeding grounds, where narwhals, bowhead whales, and beluga whales gather each spring to feast at the ice edge.

We’re on the lookout for these ocean giants. It’s day three of a two-week expedition, and so far, there’s no sign of any whales. Already, the sea ice is melting, releasing some of the richest fare on offer in the frozen Arctic: ice algae, specialist life forms that live in water pockets at the bottom of the ice. Animal plankton will eat them, and they in turn will become food for bowheads as well as for fish and squid, which are staples in the diets of narwhals and beluga whales.

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Olive Heffernan

Olive Heffernan is a London-based freelance environment writer. Olive mostly writes about climate change and its impacts, but also writes more broadly on sustainable resource use. Here you can find an archive of her recent articles, link to her Twitter feed and her blog.

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