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8 Whales You Might See during Your Antarctica Cruise

by Daniel Fox Blog

They’re powerful. They’re beautiful. Some of them are really really big. Whales are a wonder of the natural world. Whale-watching is one of the great draws on an Antarctica cruise along with bird-watching, taking in the landscapes, tracing humanity’s exploratory history, and making friends with all of the other creatures of the Antarctic wild.
8 Whales You Might See during Your Antarctica Cruise

8 Whales You Might See during Your Antarctica Cruise

They’re powerful. They’re beautiful. Some of them are really really big. Whales are a wonder of the natural world. Whale-watching is one of the great draws on an Antarctica cruise along with bird-watching, taking in the landscapes, tracing humanity’s exploratory history, and making friends with all of the other creatures of the Antarctic wild.

Here’s a quick look at some of the whale species you’ll have the chance to encounter as you cruise through the Antarctic waters. Which species you see and how many of each type depends of course on the weather, the ice, the particular cruise you take, and whether or not the whales themselves are feeling friendly on any particular day.

Blue Whales

The Blue Whales you might see on your Antarctica cruise are the largest creatures to have ever lived on Earth, making even the largest of dinosaurs seem small in comparison. Their massive bodies contain about 10 tonnes of blood. That means the weight of a blue whale’s blood alone is greater than that of a full-grown elephant, which usually tops the scales at around 7.5 tonnes.


A child could Slip n’ Slide their way through a Blue Whale’s aorta. A Blue Whale’s heart weighs about the same as a small car. And all of this great body is fed by consuming up to 3.6 metric tons of krill (that’s more than the weight of a rhinoceros) per day!

Browse more Blue Whale details on our dedicated wiki page.

Fin Whales

Despite their immense size (second only to Blue Whales) the Fin Whales you could encounter on an Antarctica cruise can really move. They’re the fastest of all the giant whales, able to burst up to speeds of about 45 km per hour (they cruise at around 10 km per hour while feeding).


Besides being the “Greyhounds of the Seas” Fin Whales are also quite loud. They can call out to each other in the range of 80dB – this is just shy of the amount of noise you hear when a small plane flies overhead, which is a pretty darned loud sound to come from an animal. This sound can be heard by other whales for over 100 km (if boat propellers don’t drown it out).

Find out more fantastic Fin Whale facts.

Humpback Whales

The Humpback Whales you might see on your Antarctica cruise can be show-offs, breaching and slapping the water with their flippers, making a spectacle of themselves.

Quite often loners when it comes to other Humpbacks, they nevertheless are quite sociable towards other marine species. They’ve been seen hobnobbing with different species of whales and dolphins, and have even been known to approach boats to take a look at the funny-looking things floating around up there.


The males are also quite the romantics. When it comes to wooing the ladies no species of whale has a longer or more complex form of song.

You can hurry over to find more Humpback Whale facts on their wiki page.

Killer Whales

The Killer Whales you can possibly see on your Antarctica cruise are one of the most famous faces of the marine mammals with their distinct black and white colouring.

Also known as Orcas and “Sea Wolves” Killer Whales are ferocious hunters who work together in packs to bring down their prey which can be just about anything smaller than the largest species of whales.


They’re not all such tough guys though. Some Orcas have been known to stay with their mothers for their entire lives. Also, oddly enough they can make friends with marine creatures like seals that they’re used to (herds that live in the same area as them), only attacking unfamiliar seals found along their hunting routes.

Catch more Killer Whale facts.

Minke Whales

On the other end of the whale scale we find the marvellous Minkes. The Minke Whales you might see on your Antarctica cruise top out at around 10 tons (the average adult weighing in at around 7 tons), making them one of the smallest species of baleen whales (meaning they have baleens – a kind of filter – instead of teeth).


If you thought the Fin Whales were loud, check this out – a Minke’s calls can spike at a little over 150dB which is as loud as a really loud rock concert!

Find out some more majestic Minke info.

Right Whales 

The Right Whales you could encounter during your Antarctic cruise unfortunately earned their names because they were the “right” whale to kill during the whaling era. They were made up of an unfortunate combination of things that made them the choice whale for whalers – they’re slow swimmers, they float when dead, they are found closer to shore than many other species, and they’re full of blubber, whalebone, baleen, and oil.



By Ksnordstrand (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re wondering what those crusty-looking things on their heads are, those are in fact calluses which play host to barnacles, lice, and worms.

Sei Whales

The Sei Whales (pronounced “say”) you might see on your Antarctica cruise are another example of a speedy whale. When they need to they can burst up to speeds in the neighbourhood of 80 km per hour for short distances, making them one of the fastest cetaceans in the seas.


Sei Whales are relatively shallow divers, preferring to stay near the surface. That makes them easier to spot than some of the deeper-diving species. However they also tend to prefer warmer waters which make them a rarer sight once you get well into Antarctic waters.

To see more sensational Sei Whale information visit our Sei Whale wiki page.

Sperm Whales 

Last but certainly not least we turn to the Sperm Whale. The Sperm Whales you could possibly see on your Antarctic cruise are almost certainly going to be males, the females preferring to remain further north.



By Gabriel Barathieu (http://www.flickr.com/photos/barathieu/7277953560/) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sperm Whales dive the deepest and the longest of all the whales. They can dive as far down as 2 km (although between 300 and 1,200 metres is more likely) and stay down there in the dark for as long as two hours as they search out tasty giant squids. They also happen to produce perhaps the loudest sound in the animal kingdom with their focused click sound being recorded to 238 dB off northern Norway. If compared to sound pressures in the air it is the same as a Saturn V rocket at lift off on the way to the moon!

To gather more scintillating Sperm Whale facts head over to their wiki.

On a final note, if you're going on a cruise to Antarctica, it's a good idea to also bring binoculars with you. Good binoculars will help you get a much closer look at whales and other wildlife as well as the majestic scenery, so choose yours carefully.

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