Canaries of the Sea: Beluga Whales

Pictured here is one of nature’s most remarkable sea mammal: the Beluga whale. Also known as the white whale, the Beluga whale is a mid-sized cetacean of Artic waters. Belugas spend their winters and summers in different locations where they feed, breed, molt and raise their young. Some even travel as far as 3,730 miles (6,000 km) each year.

Growing to between four and five meters long, Belugas are highly social animals, using complex vocalizations such as clicks, whistles and clangs to form kinship groups and to pass on important learned behaviors from one generation to generation, such as how to return to the same locations year after year, decade after decade.

Photographing Belugas from the surface is highly challenging. Seen from the surface, when the whales emerge to breathe, you usually only see a small part of their backs. The best way to capture these beautiful creatures is to go underwater. Although Belugas are not thought of as deep-diving animals (20m or 60 ft is their typical depths), they are capable to diving to extreme depths of a thousand feet with ease.

A beluga whale pod in the Chukchi Sea located in the Artic ocean west of Alaska. Photo: Laura Morse/Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries Service.

Photo: Daisy Gilardini

Watch hundreds of Beluga whales gathering in the arctic
Video by Nat Geo Wild

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