Baleen whales (Mysticetes)


Minke whales

  Balaenoptera acutorostrata

Balaenoptera acutorostrata

Did you know that minke whales can produce a variety of weird sounds, such as thumps, pulse trains, boing sounds and laser gun sounds called the Star Wars call

Size: 2.4-3 m (8-10 ft)

Weight: 180 - 350 kg (400-770 lb)

Diet: Mostly cod and haddock, also capelin, herring, sandeels and pollock

The minke whale is a baleen whale that belongs to the rorqual family and is its smallest member. Other rorquals are e.g. the blue whale, the fin whale and the humpback whale. The minke whale is one of the most common whales spotted off the coast of Iceland and can be seen near the coast all year round. Its Latin name, acutorostrata, refers to its very narrow or pointed snout, as acuto means sharp and rostrata (or rostrum) means snout or beak. The narrow snout and streamlined body make it easy for the minke to slice through the water and achieve considerable speeds when swimming through the deep. When minke whales surface from diving, the first evidence of their presence is often the narrow snout breaking the surface. The dorsal fin is fairly high and curves backward, making it easy to recognize this whale at sea. The shape of the dorsal fin along with scars and notches on it, make it possible for whale experts to recognize individual animals. Minke whales in Icelandic waters have a characteristic white band across their pectoral fins, a characteristic unique to North Atlantic minke whales. 

Humpback whales

  Megaptera novaeangliae

Megaptera novaeangliae

Did you know that male humpback whales sing beautiful songs during the breeding season that can last for hours

Size: Females = 17-18 m (56-59 ft) and Males = 16 m (52 ft)

Weight: 40 tonnes

Diet: Primarily sandeels, capelin, herring and krill.

Humpback whales are large baleen whales belonging to the rorqual family. They are classified into a separate genus called Megaptera or “big-winged”. Humpback whales are the only member of this genus, although recent studies have shown that they are most closely related to the fin whale of all other rorquals. Their most defining characteristics are their enormously long pectoral fins as well as the fact they are stockier in shape than other rorquals and have a relatively large head and broad tail. Humpback whales have charmed whale-watchers throughout the world, as they are extremely curious about seafarers and frequently perform aerial displays such as breaching and slapping the water with their fins and tails.

Fin whales

  Balaenoptera physalus

Balaenoptera physalus

Did you know that fin whales are among the fastest swimming whales in the ocean

Size: Females = 23-26 m (75-85 ft) and Males = 21 m (69 ft)

Weight: Females = 75-78 tonnes and Males = 62 tonnes

Diet: Mainly on various types of zooplankton but occationally on small schooling fish such as capelin, sandeels, mackerel and squid

Fin whales are baleen whales of the rorqual family and are the second largest mammals to have ever lived on Earth, second only to the closely
related blue whale. Fin whales can grow to up to 26 m in length and weigh around 78 tonnes. Fin whales are quite common in the waters
around Iceland during the summer and are one of two species of whale hunted for commercial purposes in these waters, the second being the
minke whale. Fin whales are very streamlined and have a distinctive narrow snout that makes it easier for them to slice through the water.
This body shape allows the whales to achieve great swimming speeds, but they are one of the fastest species in the ocean. These giants occasionally wander into Faxaflói bay, but their more common feeding grounds are found south off the Reykjanes peninsula and west off Faxaflói bay.

Blue whales

  Balaenoptera musculus

Balaenoptera musculus

Did you know that the blue whale is not only the largest animal ever known to have roamed the planet but also one of the loudest

Size: 25-33 m (82-108 ft) 

Weight: 150-190 tonnes

Diet: Zooplankton, mainly krill

The blue whale is an enormous baleen whale of the rorqual family. It is the largest and heaviest mammal to have evolved on Earth. The longest blue whale known was a female 33.6 m (110 ft.) long from the Antarctic Ocean. Another female from the same area was the heaviest ever found, or 190 tonnes. The blue whale is often seen off the north-east coast and off the Reykjanes peninsula in early summer searching for food but rarely enters Faxaflói Bay. When the whale reaches the surface to breath, its enormous body seems to be without end as it slides up out of the ocean and then down again. When up close to a blue whale one will truly realize ones own smallness.


Other baleen whales around the Icelandic coast which are rarely sighted

Sei whales

North Atlantic Right Whale

Bowhead whale