Fleeting moments: During the trip Sadie spotted a pod of narwhal but she found it was almost impossible to get a clear shot of the shy creatures (stock image)
That night at dinner, one of the ship’s expedition crew summed up the sighting perfectly. ‘Wow, what a day! We saw around 50 narwhal. What a magical but underwhelming experience!’
I was on board the Akademik Ioffe Russian research vessel with One Ocean Expeditions for a 12-day sail and kayaking trip, along with 60 other passengers.
While everyone was excited to head north to the land of polar bears, icebergs and stunning rock formations, the opportunity to spot narwhal was on the top of the agenda.
But from the get-go, we were warned it wasn’t going to be easy.
Karen Bass, one of the producers of BBC’s The Blue Planet, was also on board the ship and hearing her tales about filming narwhal made me feel better about our fleeting encounter.
A sign outside the ship’s dining room read ‘49 NARWHAL!’
It was day-eight of our Arctic expedition to one of the most remote spots on the planet, Baffin Island, and earlier that afternoon we’d finally spotted a large pod of narwhal skimming through the sea.
Admittedly, it was hard to catch a clear glimpse of the mythical beasts as they sailed along the shoreline, with their unicorn-like tusks leading the way.
Even zooming in with my largest camera lens, I struggled to catch a clear image of the shy creatures.
Failing to do the moment justice, I put down my camera and stood still to observe them as they intermittently bobbed up and down. A few blurry photos of the rare whales was all I managed to snag.
local Inuit guide on the expedition, Ted Irniq, 38, purchased a large slab of narwhal from a local store in Pond Inlet for $20 (£15) (left). Sadie decided to try the meat but wasn’t keen on the chewy texture
Karen, who started out as a researcher for David Attenborough before going into production, managed to get some incredible shots of narwhal for her Arctic-focused documentary, The Great Melt.
Giving a presentation one day on the boat she explained that getting the footage was an incredibly hard feat – even with high-tech equipment, limitless budgets and in-depth knowledge from Inuit experts.
After five weeks of not spotting anything, Karen’s camera crew were close to giving up.
But in the final 48 hours of filming, a pod of narwhal were located and a helicoptering camera crew swooped in to capture the mammals from the air.
While we didn’t get the same crystal-clear views of narwhal as Karen and her team got, we’d seen them nonetheless.
Ship ahoy! The Akademik Ioffe – used by One Ocean Expeditions for its Arctic and Antarctic expeditions – was built in 1989
And we were treated to a whole other spread of wildlife as the expedition progressed.
On one of our first excursions – where we boarded small zodiac boats in groups of ten – we spotted a polar bear in the water.
Captivated by the giant bruin, we watched it swim along the shoreline and haul its giant body out on to the red rock above.
It was a pretty surreal sight, seeing the white bear set against a dessert-like backdrop, with the sun beating down from above.
As we moved around to another part of the rocky outcrop we secured even better views of the mammal as he sunbathed.
The big melt: A giant iceberg seen off the shore of Devon Island – the largest uninhabited island on Earth
But one of the most special sightings happily happened on my birthday – August 10 – when we spotted 1,000-plus seals writhing in the water.
It was an orgy of silver-skinned animals splashing in the ocean, with birds dashing through air, furthering the frenetic energy. Even Karen – the Blue Planet producer – hadn’t seen anything like it before.
On the whale front, we spotted pilot whales and bowheads. Unusually, we also saw a pod of white-beaked dolphins one evening as the sun set.
Birds were also in abundance. On day-six we visited the Akpait National Wildlife Area on the northeastern tip of the Cumberland Peninsula.
The area, designated in 2010, supports one of the largest thick-billed murre colonies in Canada, with an estimated 133,000 breeding pairs.
While we were there we saw black-legged kittiwakes and northern fulmars.
Ocean spray: Two pilot whales were spotted during the expedition one evening as the sun was setting