The Narwhal: Unicorn like creature and deep water diver of the Arctic Ocean.

narwhal pod

The Narwhal is found only in the Arctic Ocean, predominantly north of Russia, around the coast on both the east and west side of Greenland, northern Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, Davis Strait, Baffin Bay and southern Ellesmere island.

In the distribution map below we can see the Narwhals primary habitat. The solid blue indicates areas where Narwhals are commonly seen. The striped blue section highlights area's of rare sightings.

Narwhal Distribution Map

During the summer the Narwhals can be found in the relatively shallow waters of the fiords and inlets around Baffin Island and Greenland.

In winter they will migrate to the deeper waters of Baffin Bay and find a food supply on the edge of the continental shelf in very deep water under the frozen sea ice.

Narwhal in the Blue

Narwhal are very good divers and can avail of the excellent supply of Greenland Halibut on the seabed of Baffin Bay.

In order to reach this source of food the Narwhal will dive into the dark abyss at depths of up to 4500 feet. That is 1.5 kilometres beneath the frozen Arctic Ocean surface.

Their favourite foods are Greenland Halibut (Turbot), Cod and Shrimp but will feed on other types of fish as well should the need arise.

Narwhal in ice

Narwhals are relatively small in size weighing from 2,000 to 3,500 lbs when fully grown.

The colour of the Narwhal is black with while speckles. When born they are very dark but turn whiter with age.

They travel in pods of up to 100 individuals but most in smaller groups of around 10.

The name Narwhal means "corpse whale", they often lie belly up for several minutes, this coupled with their colour owes to their strange name.

Narwhal in ice flow

One of the most distinguishing features of the Male Narwhal is it's ivory, left handed, helical tusk. This tusk can grow up to 9 feet in length and over 20 lbs.

The Female Narwhal has no Tusk.

There have been many theories about a use for the tusk, it has been a mystery for centuries. The Narwhal doesn't seem to use it to fight, catch prey or break ice, the tusk does make the Narwhal unique among Arctic sea mammals.

This video by National Geographic may solve some of the mystery. Click this link to watch.

On very rare occasions a Narwhal can have a double tusk with two long ivory shafts protruding from the left side of his upper jaw.

The Mace carried by the Sargeant-at-Arms for the ceremonial opening each day for the Nunavut Governments Legislative Assembly is made of a Narwhal Tusk.

narwhal mace

The Narwhal has been a very important mammal to the survival of the north's native peoples for centuries.

Providing meat for food and to feed sled dogs and oil to burn in lamps etc.

The raw frozen skin and blubber of the whale called Mattak or Muktuk is also considered a delicately among the natives and is very rich in vitamin "C".

Narwhal in calm water

The Narwhal tusk is a valuable collectors item sold in Europe and Asia for several thousands of dollars each.

The early Europeans believed the tusk contained magical power. During the reign on Queen Elizabeth in the 16th century it is said that she received an ivory cup covered with jewels made from a Narwhal tusk for £10,000. Several million dollars in todays currency.

Narwhal Fight

Return from Narwhal to Home Page
Return from Narwhal to Arctic Ocean