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Diver Has Close Encounter With Shy, Huge Narwhal Whale

Photographer Daniel Botelho captures images of rarely seen narwhals, the unicorn of the sea, hunted for thousands of years by Inuit in the Arctic.
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In 28-degree North Pole water, photographer captured the rarest of images—him swimming with the usually shy narwhal.

“I always knew it would be very tough to get close to a narwhal whale,” Daniel Botelho told GrindTV. “It is notoriously hard to get close to one. But while all the staff could only stand a half-hour in the water, I took advantage of my cold resistance and stayed for three hours, and suddenly something happened that no one would ever consider: a narwhal whale made friendship with a man.”

The female narwhal began following him around the arctic waters allowing him to photograph her. He thought he had ruined one of the images by sticking his fin in the frame, but he later realized that it shows just how close she was to him.

Daniel Botelho

Botelho with a female narwhal.

Narwhals have been a staple to the subsistence of Inuit populations in the Canadian Arctic for thousands of years. The narwhal—famous for the protruding tusk found on males—is hunted by Inuits for that tusk, maqtaq (blubber), meat, and skin.

The Inuit is the only group that can legally hunt the narwhal and the number each community can hunt is limited.

Still, there is a thriving smuggling ring for the mammal’s tusk, which can measure up to 9 feet long. In January, two men were charged with smuggling and money laundering in connection with such a ring that had allegedly been finding ways to get tusks from Canada into the United States for a decade.

To view more images, visit Daniel Botelho's Facebook page.

Daniel Botelho

Botelho with the narwhal.