From Greenland to Canada in Ten Days: Tracks of Bowhead Whales, <i>Balaena mysticetus</i>, across Baffin Bay


  • M.P. Heide-Jørgensen
  • K.L. Laidre
  • Ø. Wiig
  • M.V. Jensen
  • L. Dueck
  • L.D. Maiers
  • H.C. Schmidt
  • R.C. Hobbs



bowhead whale, Balaena mysticetus, satellite telemetry, dive behavior, sea ice, Baffin Bay, Canada, Greenland


Five bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) were instrumented with satellite transmitters in northwestern Disko Bay, West Greenland, in May 2001. Best results were obtained when tags were deployed with a pole rather than a pneumatic gun. At least three of the tagged whales remained in the northwestern part of the bay for one to two weeks after tagging. A male and a female whale moved from Disko Bay to northern Canada. They left Disko Bay 11 days apart and took different routes across Baffin Bay to the southern part of the North Water polynya, just east of the entrance to Lancaster Sound. The whales crossed the central part of Baffin Bay relatively rapidly (travel time of 9-10 days, 3.1 and 4.5 km/h). Dive behaviour of one whale was monitored and showed changes in dive depths, dive rates, and surfacing times in different localities, indicating behavioural changes probably related to feeding. The whales were presumably feeding in both Disko Bay in May and in the southern part of the North Water (southeast of Bylot Island) in June. This study confirms whalers' observations that bowhead whales move between West Greenland and the east coast of Baffin Island.