Cold and cloudy – but who cares when there are Humpback Whales?!

humpback whale dorsal fin sticks out above the water surface.

Whale watching from our luxury yacht is always a special kind of day. But when we see humpback whales? Wow.

Wonderful not far from the harbor at all we found several humpback whales as well as minke whales and vast amounts of porpoises. What a treat for everyone, we also found a great selection of seabirds as always.

It was rather cold, and a little cloudy as we left Reykjavik harbor on our superyacht, Amelia Rose, today. But we’ve had lots of terrible weather recently when we couldn’t go out at all so we were delighted to be on the water. Besides weather doesn’t stop the cetaceans from surfacing, as they are mammals, and mammals breathe air,  so the animals must surface to live. However it does make the animals trickier to find as we can’t see as far, the wind disperses the blow, and the choppy water can hide the telltale fins.

But this was not the case today!

Our boat was built as a luxury yacht to go across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, but today we didn’t have to go far from the harbor to find an incredible amount of life. It was like the whole world had come to feed there! The gulf stream coming north brings with it nutrients to start the food chain and sooner or later lots of small fish will be found by our big beautiful gentle giants. 

amelia rose yacht

We had barely been on the water for half an hour before we saw a blow ahead of us. It was undeniably a humpback, a large baleen whale known for its huge pectoral fins and acrobatic breaching displays. We got closer, whilst respecting the whale’s space, and allowed it to approach us. As we did so we spotted more blows, then realized there were also minkes circling us too! Normally we’d stop in wonder to look at the porpoises but they played second fiddle to the whales today.

It was exactly the kind of up-close and personal experience everyone dreams of with whales, including smelling them up close! Despite the digestive and respiratory systems of cetaceans being totally separate their breath does smell really bad, like a fishy fart! But sometimes we use this to find them. If we can’t see a whale but can smell it we start searching upwind from us.

Because the whales were feeding at depth today it meant we had great displays of the iconic tails as they dove down to feed. Everyone got the photos of their dreams!

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humpback whale watching in iceland
Humpback whale surfacing in front of snow-capped mountains

What is the difference between baleen and toothed whales?

We see both toothed and baleen whales here in Reykjavik harbor, Iceland. Did you know that dolphins and porpoises are also part of the same family? www.uk.whales.org is a brilliant website that goes into a lot more detail however this is the basic description!

They write that;

“Baleen whales have baleen plates, or sheets, which sieve prey from seawater. Toothed whales have teeth and they actively hunt fish, squid and other sea creatures. Dolphins and porpoises all have teeth and rather confusingly are known as ‘toothed whales’ too!

Another obvious difference between baleen and toothed whales is the number of blowholes on top of their head; baleen whales have two whereas toothed whales have one. There are only 14 baleen whale species and they are generally larger than the 76 species of toothed whales – except for the mighty sperm whale, the largest toothed whale.”


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