Minke Whale
Minke Whale

Minke Whale

One of the smallest of the whales, you may be lucky to find one bow-riding your Zodiac!

Information about Minke Whale

Our Expert Says… "When I'm guiding I let people know about the Minke whale's habit of surfacing two or three times before diving deep to feed. If you see one come to the surface, keep looking - you'll likely get another one or two opportunities for a good sighting and a photo. They are untroubled by the Zodiacs and you can often find yourself among them as they take a break before the next feeding dive."

Minke whales are divided into two species - the common minke whale (also known as the northern minke whale) and the Antarctic minke whale (sometimes called the southern minke whale). The name is of Norwegian origin and possibly relates to a whaler called Meincke, although this isn’t certain.

Minke whales are one of the smallest of the whales, with adults averaging around 7.6m (25ft) in length and weighing about 5 tons. They are dark grey to black in color on top, with the underside being white. The common minkes of the north have a band of white across each pectoral fin. They are baleen whales, which means they use special plates in their mouth to filter their prey out of seawater before swallowing it.

Minkes are migratory, and each population will make its way towards the poles in the spring to feed before returning to more tropical waters in the winter to mate and calve. It’s thought that the differences in seasons between the northern and southern hemispheres are what has kept the two species distinct.

Minke whales are a favorite prey of orcas, and as they have no form of defense their only option is to flee. More often than not the minke will not escape.

The minke population is, overall, stable and common minkes are listed as being of “least concern”. However, the Antarctic minke is currently listed as “near threatened”, although a 2004 survey estimated the southern population to be over 500,000 individuals.

On Antarctic expeditions, minke whales are often spotted by groups from Zodiacs as you make your way from your expedition vessel to landing sites.

Interesting facts about Minke Whale

It was only recently that the Antarctic Minke Whale was recognised as a separate species, based on morphological differences.

Minke Whales are still hunted for the meat in certain parts of the World, and where there has bene the opposition of groups like Greenpeace. In regard to so called scientific whaling, we know a lot about the morphology of dead minkes, but surprisingly little about the life history in the wild.

Pictures of Minke Whale

Minke Whale

Highlights where the Minke Whale can be seen

Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)
Exploring the pack ice

The highlight of many Svalbard cruises is to explore the pack ice, and the best conditions occur when there is an obvious edge to pack ice to sail past, or calm seas where some ships go into the loose pack ice. It is a unique and unforgettable experience to explore the pack ice ‘at the top of the World’. Seabirds feed along the edge, that can also be good for Harp Seals, and whales. The highlight is to spot a bear. Sometimes they are at a distance, sometimes a few hundred metres away, sometimes they come right up to the ship. What is crucial is to bring binoculars to fully enjoy and observe the Polar Bear in the heart of their realm, the pack ice, whatever the distance.

Sometimes a bear is seen quickly, sometimes it takes a few hours, sometimes it takes most of the day. Other times two days can be spent exploring the pack without seeing a bear. It is important to patient, enjoy the whole experience, with a bear sighting being the icing on … the pack ice! Conditions can change quickly. Mists often come in to reduce visibility. Currents can spread out the ice into widely scattered pack, making bear sightings less likely. Strong winds and a swell can mean keeping further away from the pack ice edge.   In the early season the whole northern coast is in the grip of the pack, plus fast ice in the deeper parts of the fjords on the western side. Ships explore the ice edge to the NW of Spitsbergen at this time, with more options as the ice retreats north. As the pack ice retreats north it gradually ‘unzips’ from west to east, clearing the coast of northern Spitsbergen first, then the northern end of Hinlopenstretet, (enabling circumnavigations of Spitsbergen, exactly when varying from season to season), then the northern coast of Nordaustlandet.

Some years the ice edge can end up a long way to the north, enabling a circumnavigation of the whole archipelago, and even to reach remote Kvitøya. Other years, pack ice remains along the northern coast of Nordaustlandet, often caught up among the offshore islands. This prevents a circumnavigation of the archipelago, but the areas of drifting pack ice around and places like and Lagøya can be superb for ship cruising and even Zodiac cruise amongst the pack.

Port Charcot, Booth Island

Port Charcot is a small bay at the north end of Booth Island. Booth Island is a rocky and rugged Y-shaped island off the Kiev Peninsula in Graham Land. It was first mapped in 1904 when the French Antarctic expedition led by Jean-Baptise Charcot over-wintered here.

After building a few rudimentary shelters and the cairn that can still be seen at the top of the hill, the expedition used Port Charcot as its base for exploring the area, that is close to the Lemaire Channel and the division between the NW and the SW peninsula . There is the remains of a stone hut used for astronomical observations and a wooden pillar with a plaque here where you can still make out the names of the first expedition members who wrote them almost 120 years ago.

In the bay where the Français was anchored (but difficult to reach with the ice) the letter 'F' was carved onto the rocks and can still be seen.

The walk to the cairn is delightful, although you’ll be carefully led by guides as wandering off the path can be treacherous, with loose rocks and crevasses. Visitors can also walk to the east where there is a noisy Gentoo penguin colony. Chinstraps and Adelies can also be seen on the beaches here. If you are lucky, you might get all three together!

From the top the views are stunning, especially the view to the SW, towards Pléneau Island Island, overlooking 'the iceberg graveyard'. This iceberg graveyard can be explored on a spectacular Zodiac cruise, either from ships anchored off Port Charcot to the 'NW' of the Lemaire Channel, or from ships anchored off Pléneau Island and Booth Island that had sailed through through the Lemaire Channel. For full details of this Zodiac cruise refer to the details under Pléneau Island.

The Falkland Islands

The Falkland Islands (known in Argentina as Islas Malvinas) is an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean. Most people may be familiar with them because of the conflict that was fought here by armed forces from Argentina and the UK in 1982, but there is so much more to the Falklands.

Inhabited since 1764, these remote islands have been colonized and claimed by many countries - France and Spain have claimed them (and Argentina since its formation and former Spanish colony) although it’s the British descendants who make up the majority of the islands’ 4,000 population. As a British Overseas Territory, the Falklands are self-governing, but the UK is responsible for defense and foreign affairs. Argentina still disputes the sovereignty of the islands they call the Malvinas.

Made up of two large islands (East and West Falkland) and over 700 smaller islands and islets, the Falklands are as beautiful as they are rugged and remote. Despite its history as a base for South Atlantic whalers and sealers, and more recently extensive sheep farming, the Falkland Islands have retained great biodiversity, and modern conservation has ensured many previously struggling wild species are now returning.

The Falklands is home to important populations of albatross, having some of the largest breeding sites in the world. They are also home to the rare striated caracara, 63 species of nesting land bird, and 5 penguin species. Seals, whales, dolphins, and other marine life are also abundant. Finally, the rugged landscape itself has a stark beauty, and the islanders, although hardy, offer everyone the warmest of welcomes, usually accompanied by a hearty Falklands Tea.

Fishing and farming account for the vast majority of the Falklands Islands income, although tourism is increasingly important. Many of the farms on the islands are now managed with wildlife conservation in mind, and the Falklands is a wildlife management success story.

Although most ships visit Stanley (usually for a day), the main focus on 'expedition' cruises are the outer islands with all the wildlife, and some of the special breeding birds like Black-browed Albatross and Southern Rockhopper Penguins and some Patagonia specialists like the Striated Caracara. Also bear in mind, with cruises that also go to South Georgia and the peninsula, only 2 or 3 days are normally spent in the Falklands, although some cruises spend longer here.

Our trips to spot the Minke Whale

Price
Min Price

USD 3800

Max Price

USD 31000

Duration (days)
Min Days

5

Max Days

26