World’s rarest whale sighted

25/06/2013 0 By Chris Parnell

SBlancThere was great excitement aboard Heritage Expeditions’ ship the Spirit of Enderby on Wednesday when an extremely rare North Pacific Right Whale was sighted and photographed off the northwest coast of Paramushir Island in the Sea of Okhotsk, Russian Far East.

The North Pacific Right Whale (Eubalaena japonica) is the rarest whale in the world. Very few sightings have ever been recorded and even fewer photographs taken of this elusive species. For this reason there is no reliable estimate of the population, but due to the paucity of sightings in its range of coastal Russia and Alaska, it is thought to be exceedingly small and on the brink of extinction.

Over many years of expedition cruising throughout the Russian Far East, this is a species the team has long wanted to encounter. On each voyage they have scanned the waters as they travelled many thousands of miles and on the 19th of June 2013 on the Sea of Okhotsk voyage they were finally rewarded. As the Spirit of Enderby sailed along the northwest coast of Paramushir at 1312 a tail fluke was seen in the distance. The tail was slapped repeatedly on the water as if to attract the passengers’ attention and they cautiously approached the animal for a closer look to identify the species. The whale surfaced in profile, and to the delight of all on-board, it was confirmed to be a North Pacific Right Whale. The captain hove to and the ship floated dead in the water for almost an hour as the whale continued to surface and pass close by, giving everyone the opportunity to take hundreds of quality images.

The sighting of the North Pacific Right Whale tops off a wildlife packed voyage on the Sea of Okhotsk where passengers have seen numerous Kamchatka Brown Bears, Zodiac Cruised amongst hundreds of thousands of Crested Auklets, viewed the stunning Ribbon Seal lazing on ice, spotted Beluga Whales and over thirty Steller’s Sea Eagles and much more. View Heritage Expeditions’ Captain’s Blog for the latest updates from this expedition.