Cetacean Society International
Whales Alive! - Vol. XIV No. 2 - April 2005
Whale Watchers, Are You Ready?
By William Rossiter
While Hawaiian whale watchers lie satiated in the shade after a long winter season, and Californians gather on windy cliffs to watch distant gray whales blow, the East Coast Whale Watchers not lucky enough to go to Baja, the Azores or New Zealand are still dreaming of the coming season, even before the last of the snow melts. Whale and dolphin watching worldwide is more wonderful than ever. But the real whale watching, here, only opens in mid-April. As always, CSI is pleased to recommend the Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown, Massachusetts.
As a service to fervent whale nuts who will never see enough whales and dolphins, CSI would like to offer a few unnecessary incentives. First, why is the humpback's pectoral fin so different? Squint into the sun to verify for yourself the findings of some ongoing research, testimony that there is always something new to see Out There.
These photos are about to be published in the "Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics" by Dr. Frank Fish, a Professor of Biology at the Liquid Life Lab, West Chester University, PA. CSI is pleased to include them as a service to those few who may not read Fluid Mechanics, but also because they may be of interest to every whale watcher who thinks they know humpbacks. The first image shows the raised pectoral fin of the much-loved male humpback, Sockeye, which you might have seen in Dr. Fish's Scientific American note last August. Second, Ase's pects flail in a breach. And last, Dr. Fish's photo of the cross section of a dead humpback's fin show the whitish ovals equivalent to your hand bones.
Notice how the outline looks like the wing of a plane? Dr. Fish's research proves how that airfoil shape, plus the way water flow is manipulated by the bumps on the leading edge, give the humpback amazing maneuverability with very slow fin movements. As well as taking the photos of Sockeye and Ase, CSI's Bill Rossiter will testify with awe about a humpback's abilities to literally turn on a sand lance. Next time, instead of just squealing with glee, watch how a humpback really moves as it plays around your boat. For more of Dr. Fish's research, including the humpback's tubercules, see http://darwin.wcupa.edu/~biology/fish.
For a second unnecessary reason to justify your whale watching try defining the personalities of the whales you see. Proper whale nuts (an affectionate term) know that whales and dolphins have personalities, but some may not be sure of porpoises. A recent New York Times Science Section outlined the five dimensions of human personality that psychologists use to type all of us. For the fun of it see how you can apply them to specific whales:
Can You Cook? The Wild Dolphin Project is looking for a cook this summer for their research vessel, a 20 m power catamaran. Anyone who knows of Dr. Denise Herzing's WDP and the incredible wealth of scientific inspiration her twenty year project has produced would want to jump at the chance, but don't exaggerate your skills. Look at it this way, the notice reached 3500 people weeks ago, but most are only scientists; how many of them can cook well enough to compete for this opportunity? If you're good enough give this opportunity of a lifetime a try. As the notice said: "You will also have the chance to snorkel (bring your own gear) with the dolphins and other sites such as reefs and shipwrecks." If you are interested send a CV and two letters of reference to Cindy Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org, or P.O. Box 8436, Jupiter, FL 33468.
Only The Rich Need Apply: If your seaworthy luxury yacht sits idle much of the time, or you're tired of endless parties and sweltering bays, consider a donation of time aboard your boat to some impoverished team of scientists eager to find a platform to get to sea and do some real work. There are potentials for tax deductions as well as permitted excitement around cetaceans and other marine life. CSI's flagship Zodiac is only 4 meters long and lacks a wine cellar, but it has helped a lot of people study cetaceans and the environment since 1980.
Goosebumped whale watchers were spotted on a trip out of Oceanside, California in late March. Naturally California, a San Diego-based nudist club, chartered a sport fishing boat for an event that probably attracted more attention than whales. Although members were requested to remain clothed until the boat left the harbor, most well-wrapped whale watchers who have braved the breezes over the bow would bet that the clothes went back on very quickly.
ICE WHALE, the Icelandic Whale Watch Association wants you to know that not only do whale watchers enjoy incredible experiences in Iceland, but may be helping to turn the nation slowly away from whaling. CSI is pleased to present this shortened report by Ásbjörn Björgvinsson, known to most as Abbi, Manager of the Húsavík Whale Museum and Chairman of ICEWHALE:
Whale watching quickly became one of the most popular aspects of tourism in Iceland, from a few hundred tourists in the early 1990's to more than 80,000 whale watchers in 2004. The revenues generated for local communities and the nation empower other eco-tourism in Iceland, and will be important for Iceland's future economy. Mr. Geir Oddson, Manager of the Environmental Institute at the University of Iceland, estimated that 2004's whale watching generated nearly US$27,000,000.
But 70-80% of Icelanders support whaling activities, in spite of the presence of the international moratorium. The public's approval seems to be based on national pride and independence rather than reasonable facts. For decades, Icelanders have claimed the control and utilization of their natural resources for their own means, and whale watching is not yet perceived as an alternative to whaling. 61 Minke Whales were killed for Iceland's scientific whaling during the summer of 2003 and 2004. Many of those were taken within whale watching areas. The Icelandic Marine Research Institute justifies the minke whale hunt as research to understand what fish the whales consume, as assumed competitors to commercial fisheries. However, even NAMMCO (the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission) admits that sustainable minke whaling will neither reduce the population size significantly nor increase the size of the cod stocks. It's all about the price of whale meat.
Figures published by the whale watching companies and the Icelandic Tourist Board show that, over the past eight years, whale watching has been the fastest growing sector of the Icelandic tourism industry, with an exceptional potential for further growth and development. Over 40% of all tourists traveling to Iceland go whale watching, while 10% go horseback riding and 5% river rafting. It is estimated that the number of whale watchers could exceed 100,000 in 2007.
Abbi's mission is to oppose whaling by educating and informing the Icelandic public and particularly the members of Parliament. The Húsavík Whale Museum is planning an exhibit expansion called Ocean Odyssey, to focus on whale biology, the marine ecosystem and ocean currents, and threats by humans. For further information please visit: http://www.icewhale.is/.
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