Scoresby Sound in sight

August 13 – After approximately 40 hours at sea we finally have Scoresby Sound in sight. We have sailed from Reykjavik to the East coast of Greenland. The majority of the past 40 hours I have spend in my bunk being seasick. Not because we had a rough trip and bad weather – no weather was nice and sunny with only little wind, but just because big rolling waves and then some bigger rolling waves is not my thing.

Anyhow, here we are now, we have passed Kap Brewster at the south entrance of Scoresby Sound moving towards Kap Stevenson on our way to Gåsefjord. The sun is high up, blue skies, calm flat waters. Amazing white and Turkish icebergs and steep cliffs greet us along our route as well as the northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) flying close by the ship.

On August 11th, three narwhals were equipped with satellite transmitters at the camp in Hjørnedal. These whales have since moved into Gåsefjord and we are going straight after them.

Tracks of narwhals

Our purpose is to mimic a seismic survey to investigate how narwhals react to seismic explorations. Seismic surveys are used in oil- and gas exploration, an undertaking that is becoming increasingly more common in the Artic as sea ice retreats as a consequence of global warming. Energy pulses are directed towards the sea floor creating an image of the underground. This energy also creates waves of sound that can travel across wide distances. The seismic explorations can potentially harm marine life either indirectly by disturbing their behaviours, e.g. foraging and migration, or directly by causing damage on the inner ear or vital organs. In this experiment the energy released from the airguns is only 1/10 of what the oil- and gas companies use for commercial investigations. Our intent is only to observe the narwhal’s reactions to the sound not to harm them in any way.  

Two technical scientists, Per Trinhammer and Lars Mejlgaard Rasmussen, and one student, Andreas Skifter Madsen, from University of Aarhus are handling the seismic equipment. They have years of experience and solid expertise in exactly these kinds of operations.

When we reach Gåsefjord the experiment will begin.

Scoresby Sound is the world’s longest fjord, 350 km long. It was named after William Scoresby, an Arctic explorer. The only currently populated settlement in Scoresby Sound is Ittoqqortoormiit. Approximately 460 people live in Ittoqqortoormiit.