Don’t Just Go Whale Watching – Study Them

In Newfoundland and Labrador Tourists Can Research the Sea Mammals

A whale watching tour takes tourists out for a few hours to snap photos of the sea mammals. In Newfoundland, however, whales can be studied, counted and researched.

In Newfoundland and Labrador tourists cannot only go out whale watching for a few hours – they can participate in the study of whales. Tour operator Wildland Tours, based in St. John’s, offers whale study weeks where the visitors can get actively involved in researching whales and their behaviour. They go out on boats to assist researchers and naturalists in their work to keep records of the whale population in the coastal waters of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Dave Snow is the founder of Wildland Tours and started his career as a naturalist and researcher of seabirds on Gull Island. He started his company in 1984 to help protect the seabird population in the area and has always been a fervent promoter of whale protection. He lectured about whales in Canada and the United States and has cooperated with whale researchers from the Smithsonian Institution as well as from National Geographic over the years. And he offers nature enthusiasts the opportunity to help in the study and protection of whale populations around East Canada’s coast.

Whale Study Week around East Canada’s Coast

Participants of the seven day program of the Whale Study Week spend six nights in a hotel in St. John’s and go out on water or land during the days to watch and study whales. After getting their sea legs on a first outing to sea the visitors spend the first day whale watching with the occasional puffin and other seabird seen in between.

Research Activities of Participants

From the second day on they delve deeper into whale research: participants are on the lookout for different whale species which include mostly humpback and minke whales. But they also see dolphins and big fin whales. Their activities include acoustic research which means they listen in on the feeding sounds of humpback whales as well as on the ways the sea mammals communicate with each other over often large distances.

Whale Study from Land and Sea

Participants concentrate on tail fluke photography which allows the identification of individual whales and they can observe their feeding habits. It is a marvellous experience to watch humpbacks while they are bubblenetting: they dive deep down where they emit air bubbles around a group of fish. Then they dive into the net from below with their mouths open and swallow the whole mass of fish on their way up to the surface of the sea.

Not all days are spent on sea, however: whales can also be observed along their feeding beaches, which gives visitors the opportunity to combine their whale study with the experience of other animals. With a litte luck they can view caribou or moose along the way and watch seabirds, especially gannets in the third largest gannet colony on the continent.

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