Beluga whales in St. Lawrence River, Canada: photos

AOL Travel
Barcroft India
Barcroft India

Two beluga whales were seen gliding past each other in the freezing waters of Saint Lawrence River, Canada.

Photographer Abdulhameed Shamandour spotted the belugas after days of diving in the region.

His breathtaking shots capture the gentle giants' tranquil, playful nature.

"I spent hours kayaking. Then I spotted three belugas and they started following my kayak," Shamandour said.

"I took a dive as they were swimming at a shallow depth of around 10 metres in freezing water.
"But even though the encounter lasted only a few moments, I felt they were very friendly."

Belugas are extremely sociable mammals that live, hunt and migrate together in pods, ranging from a few individuals to hundreds of whales.

Their bulbous forehead, called a "melon", is flexible and capable of changing shape, allowing them to make different facial expressions.

"At times I felt that he was almost smiling at me," the photographer added.

"I love how smart and awesome they are, and those beautiful beluga whales are listed as endangered, which means they are in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of their range."

Barcroft India
Barcroft India

A Shamandour / Barcroft India

Many populations of belugas are migrating as the sea ice changes in the Arctic.

The whales move south in the autumn as the ice forms and then return to feed again in the spring, as the ice breaks up.

They can often be found near river mouths, and sometimes even venture up river.

Belugas feed on a variety of fish species, such as salmon and herring, as well as shrimp, crabs and mollusks.

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