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On Thin Ice

National Geographic Ultimate Explorer guest correspondent Adam Ravetch dives under the frozen waters of the Arctic in search of the elusive bowhead whale, a creature that can weigh over 60 tons and may live 200 years.

National Geographic Ultimate Explorer guest correspondent Adam Ravetch sets off into the Arctic on a mission to film one of Earth’s most elusive creatures: the bowhead whale. Longer than a school bus and weighing upwards of 60 tons, the bowhead is a mighty behemoth that can live 100 years — possibly even 200. In the 15 years that Ravetch has explored the Arctic, he has never filmed the bowhead up close — until now.

Few people are as well equipped for the challenge as Ravetch. About 15 years ago, the Southern California native left the warm Pacific beaches behind to take on the darkness of the frozen Arctic. He has dived below the ice cap, swum with walruses and faced charging polar bears. Now, with the help of a unique team of researchers, the most modern equipment available and the persistence that has made him one of the world’s most renowned underwater cinematographers, he will finally have his chance to film another giant of the Arctic.

On the trail of his quarry, Ravetch travels to Greenland for a rare natural occurrence. Each spring, bowheads gather off Greenland’s frozen coast.

Armed with satellite transmitters, tiny, whale-mountable cameras and a state-of-the-art research vessel, Ravetch and the researchers gain a never-before-seen look into the lives and habits of these massive mammals.

On a traditional Inuit whale hunt in northern Canada, Ravetch explores the cultural significance of the bowhead to the people who have long depended on its meat and blubber for survival. Diving below the icy waters of the Northwest Passage, Ravetch swims among the wild and wonderful creatures that share the bowhead’s world, including Greenland sharks and unicorn-like narwhals.

But a look at bowheads would not be complete without a visit with their frequent companions, beluga whales. Little is known of the relationship between these two Arctic whales, but they are often spotted together near the edge of the ice floe. Some even refer to belugas as the “dogs” of the bowhead. Observing their behavior in the presence of bowheads, Ravetch attempts to unlock the secrets of this mysterious association.

Join Ultimate Explorer for a whale of an adventure amid one of the most extreme environments on Earth.