About the project

Hjørnedal: Outi Tervo and Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen

Photo: Carsten Egevang

In 2010 Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen and his colleague Hans Chr. Schmidt discovered that Hjørnedal in Scoresby Sound was an ideal place for live capturing of narwhals.

They have been capturing narwhals in West Greenland and Canada for 20 years but needed a good place in East Greenland where they could work with the whales. The first capturing and tagging of narwhals in East Greenland took place in Hjørnedal in 2010 and the locality quickly showed
its potentials. There is usually nice weather with little wind and there is no ice that will make troubles in the nets we use. There is not as many narwhals as we have seen at some of the other localities in the Arctic but there is enough for our work, and – very importantly – there is a very good group of hunters from Ittoqqortormiit that are willing to assist with the operations. Thus, they decided to establish a small field station with two home made houses that can be used during the month long stay at the camp. In 2017 they hope to capture and tag at least 10 narwhals in Hjørnedal.

Outi will be busy sailing around Scoresby Sound putting out listening buoys that will record narwhal sounds. She will also put Acousonde (pronounced ACK-ooo-sawnd) tags on the whales that will record hydrophones to record narwhal sounds but also depth and orientation sensors that tell us how the narwhal move when diving. In Hjørnedal, scientists and hunters alike will take turns at sitting at the top of the mountain scouting for narwhals. When spotted, everybody works together in order to calmly lead the narwhals closer to shore where they will be instrumented with satellite tags, Acousonde tags
and heart-rate recorders.

Here, you can listen to the whales from the recordings made by the Acousonde and see where the whales go after they have been deployed with satellite transmitters. The heart-rate-recorders will together with the tags help monitoring the short-term effects of seismic activity.

See all posts by Outi & Mads Peter

“Pâmiut” research vessel: Eva Garde

The research vessel “Pâmiut” is owned by Pinngortitaleriffik and used mainly for open-water investigations of shrimp and Greenland halibut. The ship is a stern trawler furnished with wet and dry laboratories as well as computers, hydrographical equipment and other equipment relevant to collection and processing of samples.

Evas main function in the East Greenland narwhal project is as a narwhal-observer on the R/V “Pâmiut”. “Pâmiut” is the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources research vessel. She will depart from the dock in Reykjavik the 12th of August heading for Scoresby Sound in East Greenland with a scheduled arrival 24-36 hours later. She hopes for good weather and whale sightings on our journey across the North Atlantic.

One of her many tasks on the vessel is to record the route through footages and videos using our newly purchased drone. The drone is a Phantom 4 Pro+; a handsome little thing with a very good camera attached. This expedition is the first where we bring and use a drone during the voyage. It will be exiting to learn how the drone can help us documenting our work as marine mammal scientists. Besides the drone work, Eva will be monitoring the seismic gun on board the vessel.

See all posts by Eva

Kangerlussuaq: Mikkel Villum

Follow Mikkel as he travels along the coast with hunters from Tasiilaq to the remote Kangerlussuaq Fjord. Here, he will set up nets in order to catch narwhals and equip them with satellite transmitters to see if they venture into Scoresby Sound.

See all posts by Mikkel

Nerlerit Inaat: Rikke Guldborg Hansen

Estimation of animal density and abundance in marine environments often use the widely renowned methodology “Distance sampling” where observers record distances to animals whilst flying along predefined transect lines crossing various environmental gradients. Much of distance sampling methodology is concentrated on detection functions, which model the probability of detecting an animal, given its distance from the transect.

Rikke will be leading a team of 4 aerial observers using a Twin Otter airplane based in Nerlerit Inaat (Constable Point) at the entrance of the Scoresby Sound Fjord systems. From there they will be flying into the Scoresby Sound fjord system covering all the fjords and inlets where narwhals have been observed in the past. The plane fly at the altitude 700 feet, covering approximate 10-30% of the water surface in the fjords. The “detection functions” will help to estimate animal density and abundance between the transect lines where the observers did not go.

Researchers participating in the project

Tagging team Hjørnedal:

Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources

Outi Tervo, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources

Mads Fage Christoffersen, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources

Susanna Blackwell, Greeneridge Sciences, Ltd.

Terrie Williams, University of California, Santa Cruz

Hans Christian Schmidt, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources

Mikkel Skovrind, University of Copenhagen

Mikkel-Holger S. Sinding, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources

Inuuta Scoresby Hammeken, Scoresby Sound

Solveig Heide-Jørgensen, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources


Tagging team Kangerlussuaq:

Mikkel Villum Jensen, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources

Fernando Ugarte, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources


Paamiut seismic team:

Eva Garde, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources

Per Lynneryp Trinhammer, University of Århus

Andreas Skifter Madsen, University of Århus

Lars Mejlgaard Rasmussen, University of Århus


Aerial survey team:

Rikke Guldborg Hansen, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources

Tenna Boye, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources

Rasmus Stenbak Larsen, University of Copenhagen

Nadya Ramirez-Martinez, University of St Andrews

Any questions regarding the site and its contents, should be directed to Rikke Guldborg Hansen at rgh@ghsdk.dk

All photos by project participants and Carsten Egevang

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