During summer time it is mainly Sperm whales to be found in the area outside Andenes. But it is also possible to come across other whale types, typically Killer whales and Pilot whales. In winter however, there is a greater probability of finding Humpback whales, Fin whales and Killer whales in addition to Sperm whales.

We have chosen to give a detailed presentation of the most common species in our waters. Column diagrams show the different whales physical facts in relation to the fin whale which is the second largest animal on earth and which is the biggest whale kind that we have seen on our whale watching trips.


“Did you know that sperm whales have the animal kingdom’s biggest brain with an impressive weight of 9 kg …?”

SPERM WHALE

The Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), is the largest of the toothed whales and the type of whale that we see most often on our trips.

Distribution

Sperm whales are widespread in all oceans of the world. Males can be found from the ice edge in polar areas down to tropical waters while females and calves usual are found in subtropical and tropical waters where the water temperature are at least 15 degrees Celcius or more. In Norwegian waters only males are present and they are mainly found in the Norwegian Sea off Eggakanten (slope of the continental shelf down to the deep parts of the Norwegian Sea).

Size and life expectancy

Males are usually 15 to 20 meters long and have a weight of 45-57 tonnes as full adults. The females are usually 11 to 13 meters long and can weigh up to 20 tons as full adults. Life expectancy for a sperm whale is up to 80 years.

Characteristics

The head make up more than a third of the body and has a square profile, and the brain is the largest among all mammals. The lower jaw is very narrow and has 18-30 conical teeth in each jaw half. Each tooth weighs approximately 1 kg. The blow hole sits far forward on the left side of the head, which makes this whale unique and easily recognizable. Flippers in front is short and angular, while the tail fin is large and powerful and about 4-5 meters wide.

Another distinguishing feature of the sperm whale is the wrinkled skin. The body is compact and color normally varies from brown or dark gray with lighter ventral side.

Main diet

The main diet of sperm whales are squid and larger fish.

Other

Sperm whales are known to dive to enormous depths, probably down to about 3,000 meters below sea level. This is deeper than any other mammal can dive, but dives to such depths has never been confirmed. The deepest dive a sperm whale has made which is confirmed is 1219 meters. Typical dives lies around depths of 400-800 meters.


MALES:

Weight ♂
45 t
Lifespan ♂
80 years
Length ♂
20 m

FEMALES:

Weight ♀
20 t
Lifespan ♀
80 years
Length ♀
13 m

KILLER WHALES

Killer Whale, also called Orca (Orcinus orca) is the largest species of the dolphin family and belongs to the toothed whales.

Distribution

Killer whales are the most widespread species of all marine mammals. Most common is this species in temperate coastal waters, especially in northern areas, but one can find them in all types of waters. On a general basis, one may argue that killer whales are far more common in cooler waters than in tropical, although they also occur under such conditions.

Size and life expectancy

An adult male can grow up to 9.5 to 10 meters long and weigh up to 8 tonnes at most. Females are somewhat smaller and up to 8.5 meters long and weighs approximately 5 tons. This makes the orca the largest of all dolphins. Regarding age, males can be 50-60 years old but the norm is about 30 years. Females can be up to 80-90 years old with a normal of about 50 years.

Characteristics

The killer whale is black and has distinctive white markings that may have touches of yellow-white or red-yellow, particularly in the head region. It has a large white patch behind each eye. The neck and abdomen are mostly white or yellowish-white. Color pattern and dorsal fin are unique to each individual. Killer whales also have the highest fin of all whales, with a height of up to 2 meters (males).

Main diet

Killer whales are eating organisms such as fish, seals, stingrays, dolphins and sharks. The killer whale decides what is the prey before the hunt begins. Thus the entire hunt is planned for the herd.

Other

Killer whales are social herd animals that live in shoals and polygamous relationships. The herd consists of a fully grown male and several adult females, and a selection juveniles and children of both sexes. The herd usually consists of 4-40 animals and keep happy together several generations.


MALES:

Weight ♂
8 t
Lifespan ♂
60 years
Length ♂
10 m

FEMALES:

Weight ♀
5 t
Lifespan ♀
90 years
Length ♀
8,5 m

PILOT WHALES

Pilot Whale or long finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) belong to the dolphin family and is thus a toothed whale.

Distribution

Pilot whales seems to thrive best in relatively deep water. The species has a circum atlantic prevalence in the Southern Hemisphere, but the species are also found in temperate and polar regions of the North Atlantic and in the western half of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Earlier the species could also be found west in the northern Pacific.

In northern areas the species is especially abundant around Greenland and Iceland, and is not unusual to see here in Norway.

Size and life expectancy

Males are significantly larger than females and are about 4 to 7.6 m long and weighing up to 3.8 tonnes. Females usually have a length of 3 to 5.6 m and weighing up to 1.8 tonnes. The species can be 40-50 years old.

Characteristics

Pilot whales are a big melon headed dolphin species who is black or dark gray in color with a lighter area behind a sickle-shaped dorsal fin located relatively far from the head. It has long flippers that make up about 20 percent of its body length. There is also a short finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) which is prevalent in tropical and temperate waters.

Main diet

Pilot Whale’s main diet is squid and mackerel.

Other

The species is highly social and form social structures resembling the one of killer whales. A typical group counts 10-50 animals, sometimes up to 100 animals. The ties between the animals are so strong that if one of them stranded, more will follow. The species is therefore exposed to so-called “mass strandings.”

The very active pilot whales can dive for up to ten minutes and to depths down to 600 m. Like other toothed whales they use echolocation to orient themselves with, including to capture prey.


MALES:

Weight ♂
3,8 t
Lifespan ♂
50 years
Length ♂
7,6 m

FEMALES:

Weight ♀
1,8 t
Lifespan ♀
50 years
Length ♀
5,6 m

FIN WHALES

Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) is a baleen whale in the fin whale family (Balaenopteridae). The fin whale is the second largest of all whales measured in length, and is only surpassed by the blue whale.

Distribution

Fin whales are found in all oceans, and local populations are found even in the Mediterranean. In our waters it is particularly found along the continental shelf of northern Norway and up to Spitsbergen.

Size and life expectancy

In the southern hemisphere fin whales can have a length up to 26 meters (females) and 25 meters (males). They are somewhat shorter in the northern hemisphere, and weighs from 60-80 tons in the south and 40-50 tonnes in the north. Life expectancy is possibly up to 100 years but there are individuals who are measured to be about 130 years old!

Characteristics

Fin whales are dark gray on the back and lighter gray on the belly. The head has an asymmetric color pattern. The upper jaw is dark on both sides, while the lower jaw is dark on the left side and light on the right side. The baleen on the right and left sides follow this color pattern.

Main diet

The diet is versatile and ranges from copepod and krill to fish such as herring, mackerel and cod.

Other

Fin whales are fast animals and can maintain speeds of 15 km / h while on the move. Short intervals of almost 30 km / h is observed. Dive time is 3-10 minutes.


MALES:

Weight ♂
70 t
Lifespan ♂
130 years
Length ♂
25 m

FEMALES:

Weight ♀
70 t
Lifespan ♀
130 years
Length ♀
26 m

HUMPBACK WHALES

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a baleen whale that belong to the fin whale family.

Distribution

Humpbacks are found in all oceans. In our waters it occurs the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea. Humpback whales migrate from the cold waters near the edge of the ice where they graze in the summer to subtropical waters where they give birth and mate in the winter.

Size and life expectancy

Males are around 15 to 17 meters long at most while the females are slightly larger with sizes up to 16-19 meters. However, a normal length is 12 to 14 meters. Maximum weight is 40 tonnes but normal weight is between 25 to 30 tons. It is estimated that maximum age is up to 80 years.

Characteristics

With its extremely long pectoral fins (a third of their body length), the hump on its back and wart-like growths on the upper and lower jaw, the humpbacks are distinguished from the other whales in the fin whale family. Humpback whales are dark back and light, almost white on the abdomen from the lower mandible and back. The long pectoral fins and underside of the tail has an individual degree of white. Humpback whales lifts very often the tail when diving, and the color pattern on the tail fin is used for individual recognition.

Main diet

Humpback whales have a diet ranging from krill to small schooling fish such as capelin and herring.

Other

Humpback whales appears to be playful as they jump out of the water and hit the water surface with their long pectoral fins or tail fin. The biological significance of this seemingly playful behavior is not known. Humpbacks are also known for its complex whale song. The song has been interpreted as a way to attract females, but recent studies suggest that the primary function is communication between the males, perhaps to establish a hierarchy between them.


MALES:

Weight ♂
35 t
Lifespan ♂
80 years
Length ♂
17 m

FEMALES:

Weight ♀
40 t
Lifespan ♀
80 years
Length ♀
19 m

MINKE WHALES

Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) is a species in the fin whale family and thus also a baleen whale. The minke whale is the second smallest of the baleen whales and only the dwarf right whale (Caperea marginata) is smaller.

Distribution

The minke whale has a cosmopolitan distribution. It makes regular migrations in the summer as far north and south as ice areas. In winter it seeks the warmer waters where procreation takes place. The minke whales in the northern and southern hemisphere do not mix. It occurs most often alone, but small groups are also common. It is often seen inside the fjords and bays.

Size and life expectancy

Maximum length for males is around 10 meters while the norm is 7 meters. For females, the maximum length of 11 meters while the 7,5 meter is normal. Maximum weight is 10 tonnes but usually they have a weight around 6-9 tons. Regarding age, it is estimated that they can live for up to 60 years. Normal life expectancy is 30-50 years.

Characteristics

Minke whales are distinguished from other whales having a white ribbon on each of the flippers. The body is usually black or dark gray on top and white underneath. Most of the whale’s back, including the dorsal fin and blow holes (baleen whales have two breathing holes) appear simultaneously when the whale goes up to breathe. Whales breathe 3-5 times in short intervals before it make dives lasting 2-20 minutes. Before a dive it bends its back considerably. Maximum swimming speed for minke whales has been estimated to be 20-30 km / h.

Main diet

The diet is very versatile for baleen whales ranging from copepods and krill to fish such as capelin, herring, mackerel and sometimes large codfish.

Other

Maximum swimming speed for minke whales has been estimated to be 20-30 km / h.


MALES:

Weight ♂
9 t
Lifespan ♂
60 years
Length ♂
10 m

FEMALES:

Weight ♀
10 t
Lifespan ♀
60 years
Length ♀
11 m