Although bowheads live today in Arctic waters, they once ranged much farther south, in the now-vanished Champlain Sea. Palaeontologists learned this when a whale skeleton was found west of Ottawa near White Lake, Ontario. Radiocarbon dating indicates that the whale died about 11 500 years ago.
The skeleton was found in deposits from the Champlain Sea. This inland sea was created some 12 000 years ago, when the last ice sheet from the last ice age retreated north of the St. Lawrence valley, and the Atlantic Ocean flooded the depression that had been created by the immense weight of the ice. The Champlain Sea disappeared about 9500 years ago.
Because the skeleton was found near the town of White Lake, this individual is often called the White Lake Whale. Scientifically, it is the same species as today's bowhead whale, Balaena mysticetus.
The skeleton was found in beach deposits, which suggests that the animal either died and was washed ashore, or was stranded and then died.
Today's adult bowheads average about 19 m (65 ft.) in length, and they may weigh more than 60 t (66 tn.).