"I called home: 'Mom! We have seen blue whales!'" said Sylvi Lundgren while examining the pictures. The experience on the boat trip with Frank Bakken the previous evening made a tremendous impression.
"We saw two that spouted far from each other," Bakken said. "That one we know was a blue whale; it is out guess the other also was."
They said the columns of water must have been two to twelve meters up in the air, and during dives the animals lifted their whole spur and exhibited a color pattern that is characteristic of the planet's largest mammals.
"We just drove. They were up many times," said Frank Bakken, estimating they were at a distance of 50 to 100 meters at the closest.
He said he can't recall there ever being as many sightings in Isfjorden as this year, a claim supported by researchers.
Kjell Arne Fagerheim and Nils Øien, who monitor whales for the Institute of Marine Research, confirmed the photos show a blue whale and that Bakken is correct.
In addition, reports from this year's cruise aboard the Helmer Hansen show there have been many sightings just of blue whales. As of Aug. 26, they had seen a total of 25 specimens of the giant.
"This year I must say that it seems as if there has been a lot of blue whales," Øien said. "It is actually an impression that we have observed more blue whales than we have done in previous years."
The researchers said they do not think it has anything to do with the population, since reproduction is lengthy. However, they do believe it is because there is a good supply of food in Svalbard. It is particularly on the western and northern sides of Svalbard that more blue whales have been observed. A counting expedition during the summer also suggests whales are very concentrated when they are encountered.
Meanwhile, the water temperature has increased in the sea, which may have led to better conditions for zooplankton, which the blue whale feed on. The researchers also note the fin whale has been tracked ever farther north during the past 20 years. It also finds its way by eating plankton.
"That can mean that you get a displacement of ecosystems farther north," Øien said.
Neither Frank Bakken nor Sylvi Lundgren have seen blue whales before, even though they both have lengthy experience in Svalbard.
"It's temptation for more walks," she said.