In Pursuit of the Fin Whale

  • Fin whale (foreground) with a minke whale (background). © GREMM
    19 / 07 / 2017 Par Sophie Bédard

    Last July 13, 2017, I spent my day on the water in search of large rorquals to photograph. The weather was conducive to observing marine mammals: calm water, no fog and a bright sun. And yet, there wasn’t a large whale in sight.

    Two mink whales swimming close to the boat. © GREMM

    It was only in the afternoon that we finally spotted a fin whale. This species is certainly the fastest of whales, with top speeds of up to 40 km/h, hence its nickname “greyhound of the sea”. So even if you do spot a fin whale, there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to keep it within viewing distance for very long.  

    That is exactly what happened that day. We struggled to follow the individual, who surfaced to breath a few times and promptly disappeared, reappearing only after a few long minutes, quite far from the Zodiac. After a moment of searching, we came across a few feeding minke whales. The captain thus decided to stay in the area and enjoy the show rather than to follow the fin whale that we were having trouble finding again.

    A beautiful scene with more than 10 minke whales feeding all around the boat under the late afternoon sun. Groups of two to three individuals were even spotted swimming in synchronized fashion.

    Then, a few minutes later, to everyone’s surprise, the fin whale appeared. Yes, just like the minke whales, it was surely attracted by the plentiful food that the sector has to offer.

    Finally, after a long day of effort, I finally managed to shoot a few photos of this fin whale. All that remains is to identify it!


    Sophie Bédard joined the GREMM team this year as a volunteer research assistant. As part of the photo-census program of large rorquals in the Marine Park, she collects photos and data on board tour boats. She also shares this information with the editorial team of Whales Online.