What’s been going on with Whale Wise?

By Beverly Tan.

Header photo by: Gabriele Negro

A lot has happened in the past couple of weeks, and we’re back to give you an update on all the things the Whale Wise team has been involved in! As always, the weather in Iceland has been incredibly indecisive, and we constantly see a battle between summer and winter here. We enjoyed bright sunny summer days just last week as a heatwave hit Europe, but today I am currently writing this while holed up in the house as a storm rages on outside.

The newest additions to Húsavík

To start, we’ve had a near-complete overhaul of our team members, with Flo, Abigail and Alyssa leaving the team and passing the baton onto Beverly, Amelie and Gabriele. Our newest team members were shown the ropes of how to conduct behavioural observations from whale watching boats, how to continue getting the best shots for our documentary and are all excited to be here to help protect the magnificent whales of Skjálfandi Bay. Before she left, our wonderful drone pilot Abigail also gave us some lessons in droning – starting off from teaching us on land and then taking us onto the water to practice droning from our research vessel. We hope that with practice, we will be able to continue collecting aerial imagery and blow samples from the whales well into the season.

Photo by: Gabriele Negro

The newest additions to Húsavík in the past weeks not only included new members of the Whale Wise team, as new whales travelled into the bay. We saw more humpback whales that we’ve not yet seen this season, and a mother and calf blue whale that generated loads of excitement from all researchers, guides and tourists fortunate enough to have caught a glimpse. On a recent trip, although not technically new to the bay, we also saw the very curious harbour seal pictured in the header image of this blog post pop up right by the whale watching boat we were on! We were also joined by new guides from North Sailing, which always offers a fresh experience on the whale watching boats. For one, the tours by Mike, who was originally from the UK and has been guiding in Reykjavík for the past couple of years, are a personal favourite. He never fails to include an environmental message at the end of his tours, ranging from climate change to plastics pollution, to educate the public and share a couple of ways in which they can easily take action and do their part.

Mother and calf blue whale pair.

Public Outreach with the National Geographic Explorer

As established at the start of the season, engagement and outreach with the public is a key priority for the Whale Wise team. We started the season off with a partnership with the Arctic Whale team, and consistently update our social media platforms (Instagram Twitter Facebook) . Recently, another exciting opportunity opened up with National Geographic Expeditions. The team was invited to speak about our research on board the flagship National Geographic Explorer at Akureyri, while it was on its circumnavigation of Iceland. Tom presented the important work carried out by the Whale Wise team to around a hundred guests, and was peppered with questions by the very interested audience. With a total of three Icelandic circumnavigation expeditions that we were invited to, this was truly a massive outreach opportunity to educate the public on our work. We would like to thank the National Geographic Explorer for the opportunity and having us on board, and look forward to future partnerships with the team.

Photos by: Gabriele Negro

Other interesting happenings in Húsavík

Being a small town with just over 2,000 inhabitants, one might not expect much to be going on in Húsavík, but a lot has happened in the town in the past few weeks! For one, Húsavík was all dressed up for the town festival of Mærudagar on the last weekend of July. The team had a splendid time soaking in the festivities, enjoying the local carnival, market and music festival. We even saw performances by some of Iceland’s most famous musicians, including the beloved Greta Salóme, a singer, songwriter and violinist, and rapper Mr Peanut Butter (Herra Hnetusmjör).

This evening, whale enthusiasts are in for a treat – Joe Roman, a conservation biologist and author at the University of Vermont, more affectionately known as the whale pump man is in town. He will be giving a lecture at the Húsavík Whale Museum, discussing the ecological role of whales in the oceans, and his research on the movement of nutrients from high-latitude waters by migrating whales, a process dubbed the “great whale conveyor belt”. An exciting evening awaits us, and here’s us signing off ‘til next time!

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