A SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH PROJECT SUPPORTED BY GAZPROM NEFT

НАРВАЛ

FOLLOW THE EXPEDITION ONLINE
THE SECOND ARCTIC EXPEDITION 2021
The Narwhal is a marine animal — a northern toothed whale with a distinctive tusk — that lives exclusively in the Arctic. This marine mammal is extremely sensitive to changes in the environment — and, as such, acts as a true indicator of Arctic ecosystems. Ongoing observations of the species and its closest neighbours will make it possible to monitor the environment in the Arctic, and support its sustainability.

The Narwhal research project — which involves studying and protecting these animals — was launched in 2019. Gazprom Neft, which is undertaking some major high-tech projects in the Arctic, has taken the initiative in studying, looking after and raising awareness of this species.
Diet: bottom-feeding fish, molluscs and crustaceans. Narwhals can dive to depths of up to 1,800 metres in search of food. Narwhals have a sensory ability, called "echolocation", which they use to find food and navigate underwater.
NUTRITION
In the Middle Ages, as well as in modern times, narwhal tusks were a very valuable commodity. Merchants attributed them with special medicinal and magical powers, spreading legends and stories about the magical "sea unicorns" that lived on land and sea.
ORIGINS OF THE LEGEND
Groups: 6–7 individuals
High-latitude Arctic waters
NATURAL HABITAT
ABOUT THE NARWHAL
Length: 2–3 metres
Thickness: 7–10 centimetres
Weight: up to 10 kilogrammes
THE NARWHAL TUSK
Length: 4.5–5 metres
Weight: 1,500 kilogrammes
TYPICAL SIZE
The narwhal — that most enigmatic of creatures, the "sea unicorn" is the stuff of legend.

The narwhal is that most enigmatic of creatures, the "sea unicorn", and the hero of ancient myths and legends. This northern whale is found around Novaya Zemlya, and the Spitzbergen and Franz Josef Land archipelagos. Its most striking feature is its corkscrew-like tusk, from which it gets its romantic nickname. In the Middle Ages — and in modern times — the narwhal’s tusk was said to have magical powers. Even now, this rare animal (listed in the Red Book of endangered species) is still surrounded by a halo of mystery.
ЭКСПЕДИЦИИ
Выберите год:
2021
2019

2019
EXPEDITION ROUTE

The first expedition under the Narwhal project, organised by Gazprom Neft together with the Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2019, delivered a major scientific finding:
2019

first ARCTIC RESEARCH EXPEDITION

Narwhals were discovered around Franz Josef Land. Several large groups — of up to 30 individual animals — were monitored on an ongoing basis. The expedition resulted in a significant amount of photo and video footage of narwhals in the Russian Arctic being collected for the first time.

For the first time in some years recordings were made not just of adult narwhal, but also their calves — leading to the hypothesis that this area serves as a breeding ground as well as an established habitat.

Mixed groups of narwhal and beluga whales were also encountered in the Russian Arctic for the first time, confirming the hypothesis that these creatures are concomitant (can live happily alongside each other).

Extensive material was collected on typical exemplars of the species, as well as on indicators on Arctic ecosystems.
Narwhals located in these areas
Helicopter surveillance areas
The route followed by the Mikhail Somov

2021
EXPEDITION ROUTE

Gazprom Neft will be conducting its second expedition, together with the Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in June 2021.
2021

SECOND ARCTIC RESEARCH EXPEDITION

The objectives of this new expedition are to:
Collect material for a major awareness-raising project
Assess the status of the narwhal population and identify current threats
Put in place a conservation programme for this species and its habitat
Determine the size of the narwhal population in the Russian Arctic
Determine the boundaries of the narwhal's natural habitat
Federal State budgetary institution
"Northern Administration for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring
Organisational partners:
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation
The route followed by the Mikhail Somov
Narwhals located in these areas

Expedition diary

Project team

OLGA SHPAK
Expedition scientific leader
PhD, biology, Research Associate, Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences
"Since narwhals are rarely caught sight of, we weren't expecting much when we set out on the expedition – we'd have thought ourselves lucky to have seen one or two. But we were lucky enough to observe a whole group! It's important for researchers that this group was mixed-gender, and of different ages. And the most interesting thing was – we saw narwhals in a mixed group that included white (beluga) whales. Beluga whales and narwhals are sympatric species (species that tend to be found at the same place and time), and are closely related: our observations during this expedition are the only documented encounter with a mixed group. Added to which – these weren't just youngsters, travelling together randomly, but included narwhals of different ages, as well as beluga whales with their calves. This is new and important data in terms of scientific knowledge: we are at the beginning of a major and fascinating journey in terms of research."
DMITRY GLAZOV
Expedition scientific adviser
Lead engineer, Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences
"The narwhal, like other cetaceans (aquatica mammals) – including beluga and bowhead whales – give a reliable reflection of an ecosystem's actual state and condition. That's why monitoring them is so critical. Off the coasts of Norway, Denmark, Greenland, and Canada, the narwhal is a commercially exploited species that can be easily tagged, its migration monitored, and its population structure studied. In the Russian Arctic, it's a different story. Once upon a time, Soviet ice explorers had to mark anywhere they encountered narwhals on maps. Today, though, a lot of that data has been lost, so we don't know what's going on in polar ice-clearings – those areas in high Arctic latitudes where the ice never quite becomes a solid ice-sheet. There's reason to believe that the remote and inaccessible area in the channel between Spitsbergen and Franz Josef Land is critically important for narwhal in Russian waters. It could be that, even in winter, things are still going on, and beluga whales – and even narwhals – are present there. Any information from this region is extremely valuable to our research."
MIKHAIL BERGART
Narwhal Project Manager
"Virtually all of Gazprom Neft's projects in the Arctic demand innovative solutions – no one else has attempted anything involving this level of innovation and complexity. And this is typical of the company's environmental initiatives. We don't just support existing research, but initiate comprehensive, integrated programmes on researching and preserving biodiversity, ourselves. And we put our technological capabilities to good use here. Studying the narwhal, actually, is a genuine challenge – it takes a long time, it's expensive, and it's technologically demanding. We are, already, putting our industrial drones – which are adapted to operate at extremely low temperatures – to use, and testing other developments that further Arctic exploration is going to be impossible without. We are designing and developing surveys together with the academic community, in line with what Russian science needs."
©Gazprom Neft, 2021
Project operator
The "Home Towns" project, Gazprom Neft's corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme
The a.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Scientific partner
Russian Geographical Society
General partner