Intermission: Rare Footage of the "Arctic Unicorn" Intermission: Rare Footage of the "Arctic Unicorn"
The Planet

Intermission: Rare Footage of the "Arctic Unicorn"

by Ben Jervey

April 2, 2011

This is just beautiful. In this "unique aerial sequence," you'll see the mysterious migration of the narwhal, often called the "Arctic unicorn." The whales' migration is famously perilous, as  shifts in the ice can trap these mammals underwater.

But why take my word for it, when you can listen to the great David Attenborough tell it. 

Known as the 'Arctic unicorn' because of their strange spiral tusks, narwhal are some of the most secretive and elusive animals in the world's oceans.

The leads provide passage for thousands of these mysterious whales. Each summer, they travel 600 miles north, navigating through the ice to reach rich fishing grounds. More whales travel along the edge of the ice, where it meets the open sea, to search for the openings of leads.

It's a hazardous journey. As mammals, they need air to breathe, and if the ice closes above them, they could suffocate.

I tend to be more of an anthropocentric environmentalist. I generally fret more about the well-being of a family in waterlogged Bangladesh or a farm worker toiling in a cloud of pesticides than I do about the trees and owls and whales. But a video like this still gives me goosebumps. 

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Intermission: Rare Footage of the "Arctic Unicorn"