In the last few days, we’ve covered a lot of water in Admiralty Inlet. We headed south from Arctic Bay, along the western shore and all the way to the bottom. Back north again and finally west inside Moffet and Fleming Inlets. All the while looking for orcas and narwhal – our objective is to find big pods and capture them on film from the close and low perspective of our dinghy. We’d built a camera platform in it, and the crew was standing by. All that was missing were the whales!
Then one 5am morning in Fleming Inlet we spotted both narwhal and a bowhead whale, not far away. All of a sudden, like a sleepily oiled machine, everyone was out of their bunks and ready. (Ready to row, that is, since we’d learned the dinghy’s outboard engine didn’t let us get close to the whales.) First we steamed Tern a little closer. Justin and Valentine then climbed into the dinghy and tried to row to the pod. Kieran, in his drysuit, took to the kayak in the hopes of underwater footage.It didn’t take long to figure out that narwhal prefer kayaks! These beautiful and crazy looking unicorns of the sea approached the kayak. And, as Kieran got into the water with all his filming gear, the whales got even more intrigued and kept swimming around him! “This is one of the best things that I have done in my life” he said through half-frozen blue lips after an hour in the water! He had filmed narwhal passing close by – mother and calves, single animals, and groups of up to 6 animals in the air-clear water of the Arctic.
In the afternoon, we hatched Plan B. Kieran would be on the dinghy ready to dive, while Justin and Valentine would row to a pod of whales. By the time Kieran would be in the water, we hoped, the group would still be around and would be attracted to our diver. He could film some more and Justin could film from the surface as well. Great plan on paper, but – as before – we forgot to tell the whales!
While all this was going on, Grant and Pascale stayed on the Tern and managed the base: follow the narwhals from afar, constant check-up with the binoculars on the diver and team out, intense hot water bottles preparation (key for the diver once he gets out!), cooking, getting the kayak ready again, downloading the weather forecast, and everything else to keep us safe and comfortable.
After more than 12 hours of this, the Tern headed for a nice anchor spot to rest and plan our next move. We’ve just received warning of another gale, so our priority is shelter and preparations for our end-of-season sail south! All in all, a very successful and fun encounter… so, of course, we celebrated with a cake!