Carcass of a bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) found in the lateral moraine of the Jemelianovbreen glacier, eastern Svalbard

  • Ida Lønne
  • Eva Fuglei

Abstract

An 8 m long carcass of a bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) melted out from remnant glacier ice in the lateral moraine of the Jemelianovbreen glacier in August 1996. Folded and sheared sediment bands in the ice suggest that the whale was incorporated during an advance of the glacier. The whale's longitudinal axis was oriented parallel to the direction of the ice-flow, with the thinnest posterior part dipping uFWlow. The posterior section was best preserved with muscles and blubber, although the entire skin surface was strongly decomposed and only a thick fibrous surface was left of the blubber. The abdominal wall was holed, most likely by marine organisms, and partly filled with a compacted mixture of well-sorted gravelly beach sediments and fat. the whale seems to have been incorporated into the glacier together with glaciomarine sediments and carried by the flowing ice to an altitude of ca. 15 m. Jemelianovbreen is a tidewater glacier with two known surge-episodes. The first and most extensive of these occurred ca. 1900 AD and reached ca. 7 km outside the present coast-line. Radiocarbon dating of a fragment of a caudal vertebra yielded 345 ± 40 14C years BP (1535-1660 cal. AD), suggesting that the whale lived some time during the last part of the cold period known as the Little Ice Age.

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Published
1997-01-06
How to Cite
Lønne, I., & Fuglei, E. (1997). Carcass of a bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) found in the lateral moraine of the Jemelianovbreen glacier, eastern Svalbard. Polar Research, 16(1), 9-18. https://doi.org/10.3402/polar.v16i1.6621
Section
Research/review articles

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