Presentation of the project

The narwhal is a symbol of the Arctic. At the confluence of animal, cultural and economic themes of the region, this small white whale has long been a source of inspiration for indigenous populations and a source of fantasy for Westerners who mistook it for a sea unicorn because of the long tusk characteristic of males.

Today, it is another symbol: that of an Arctic in full mutation due to human activity. It is this symbol, less cheerful, that the naturalist painter from Geneva, Pierre Baumgart, set out to tell in the form of a travelogue, that of a quest, and in the form of a drawing, of course.

Throughout the expedition, he will board the Mauritius in different places known to be narwhal distribution areas: along the east coast of Greenland, on the western edge of the Northwest Passage between Disko Bay (Greenland) and Resolute Bay (Canada) to try to catch a glimpse of this animal whose discretion has contributed to its legend.

The narwhal lives along the pack ice and has adapted very well to the extreme conditions of these cold waters. The absence of a dorsal fin allows it to evolve at the edge of the ice where the orca, one of its only predators, cannot follow it. Besides, it is quite rare, it is all the more difficult to observe for these practical reasons: it is very dangerous for a boat to approach the ice pack.

It dives to great depths to capture, thanks to a sophisticated echolocation system, the fish and cephalopods that it feeds on.

We certainly know a little more about its distribution and its migration corridors, but large parts of its lifestyle and morphology are still obscure. And we also guess, unfortunately, that this cetacean is very threatened by global warming and by the noise pollution of the maritime traffic which tends to develop in its area of distribution.

It is all this, and much more, that Pierre Baumgart will tell and illustrate in his quest for the narwhal.

image pierre baumgart

“The narwhal is an arctic symbol par excellence. It represents everything I love: cetaceans, ice, difficulty, the quest…”

Biography of Pierre Baumgart

Born in 1969 in Geneva, Pierre Baumgart has always been passionate about wildlife and nature. He follows in the footsteps of the great Swiss naturalist Robert Hainard (1906-1999), whom he met as a child and later asked to teach him his particular technique of engraving, between the European tradition and Japanese printmaking, with gradations and touches of color.

He spends days and nights observing animals in their habitat before making prints that can take weeks to complete. As part of The Ocean Mapping Expedition, the Pacific Foundation’s previous expedition, Pierre Baumgart embarked on Fleur de Passion in 2017 in Australia for two weeks of sailing in the southern Great Barrier Reef.