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Whaling

The further we came north, the better the weather. The stiff breeze eased out until the water surface became oily, just moved by the gentle swell, shining in the evening sun. Best conditions to find some whales!

We were not the only ones in the area looking for whales, but little did we know that the intentions of the other boat that came into sight were far less peaceful. The seemingly innocent boat Reinebruen from Svolvær (Lofoten, Norway) turned out to be a whale catcher, with a crow’s nest and a harpoon gun on the bow, and while we were watching a young Humpback whale, we heard the first shot being fired in the distance. Several more shots followed over the next couple of minutes, and we saw a smaller whale splashing under the bow of the whaler. It fought the pain of the steel harpoon in its belly for 5-6 minutes until it died.

It is not a secret that Norway issues well beyond 1000 licenses for Minke whales to its whaling fleet every year, and sometimes we see whaling ships in Norwegian ports including Longyearbyen. But seeing a whaler in deadly action is something different. I had never seen that before and I did not have an idea of the impression it would make on me to see how a whale is shot, dies and is pulled up on deck.

The crew of the Reinebuen turned the ship several times quickly, obviously trying to move the strongly bleeding whale out of our sight. They know what the world things about this.

Finally they went their way and we went ours. I had a bad feeling in my stomach and weak knees, as if I had just become witness to a murder. Well, this was pretty much the case, in a wider sense.

Click on thumbnail to open an enlarged version of the specific photo.

Soon, two more Humpback whales appeared under the midnight sun, happy and alive, not knowing that a slightly remoter relative had just died in a very bloody and painful way. Spirits on board were rising noticeably. Admittedly, I was not yet up for it. The emotional change from slaughter to observation of almost the same wonderful animal was just a bit too fast for me, so I watched it slightly mechanically, took my photos and was then happy to finish the day.

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last modification: 2015-06-01 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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