The first (and most important) task of this expedition is – to find groups of “sea unicorns” (narwhals). And that’s not as easy as it sounds. Narwhals are highly sensitive, and quick to swim away from any noise. Which is why researchers are armed with a helicopter (for aerial observation) and boats with low-noise engines, on which they plan to get as close as to the narwhals as possible.
Why? What for? To determine the narwhals’ social, sex and age grouping structures; to take photos and shoot videos of the animals in order to clarify their numbers; and, most importantly, to try and get samples of genetic material, using a crossbow. All of which will help assess the current status of the narwhal population in the western sector of the Russian Arctic, as accurately as possible, and help in understanding the social structure and particular features of inter-species relationships.
The narwhal’s dependence on various environmental factors will also be investigated.