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Bowhead Whale Skull - 3 - Gåshamna, Hornsund, Svalbard

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The remains of a bowhead whale skull, unlike many of the other large whale bone remains in this area, this one doesn't have much plant growth around it, maybe a result of it being moved to this position after the initial decay and release of nutrients had taken place.

The rostrum is seen broken off near the base and would have extended towards the bottom of the picture some 3-4 times the length of the rest of this skull. The large hole at the base of the skull is where it would have articulated with the first vertebra, the black disc to the left of this is a camera lens cap for scale though of course the boots of the person to the side of the picture probably give a better indicator of scale.

A large open bay to the south of the Hornsund fjord, Gåshamna is the site of whaling activity from the 1600 to 1700's. In these times bowhead and right whales were the target species as they were slow swimming and relatively easy to catch, they yielded large quantities of oil and of whale bone (baleen). The faster swimming rorquals such as blue, fin and minke whales wouldn't be in the whalers sights for another two hundred years.

These remains are left behind by English whalers of this era.


76° 56.7' N, 15° 49.9' E

Picture copyright Paul Ward

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