Research projects of MAREFA are done in a close collaboration with Whalesafari AS, a whale watching company operating from Andenes since 1987. Whalesafari has a collection of cetacean data for the past 20 years, which is used together with the currently collected data, to develop research projects and individual Masters and PhD thesis. The current projects require collecting data from the land-based platform located in Andenes lighthouse, and from the two Whalesafari boats. Here you can read more about the platforms we use, and if you want to know more about the particular projects, follow THIS LINK.
“Reine” is a traditional Norwegian vessel built in 1947, with a maximum speed of 9 knots and 28.5 m long. Its low speed, the wooden hull, together with the two hull mounted hydrophones through which it is possible to listen to the whales, make Reine a perfect research platform to study sperm whales. The hydrophones (underwater microphones) enable us to listen to the sounds produced by whales underwater in real time and to record the sound for later analysis. They also allow finding and following the whales, particularly deep-diving species such as sperm whales, when they are underwater.
“Maan Dolphin” is a high-speed catamaran, with maximum speed of 33 knots. It was built in 1986 and is 38.8 m long. This vessel is perfect to quickly arrive to distant areas in the days when whales have moved further away from the shore, allowing us to spend less time travelling and more time with the whales, and also to cover a larger area in search for cetaceans.
While on board these two platforms, MAREFA researchers and research assistants collect information on research effort, environmental conditions and encountered cetaceans. During the encounters with cetaceans we gather information on group size, composition (e.g. number of calves) and behavior (e.g. travelling, resting), and the number of boats present during the sighting. We also take photo identification pictures of flukes and dorsal fins and any special marks on the body of the whales to identify individual whales. On board Reine, acoustic data is also collected.
MAREFA uses a 40-meter high Andenes lighthouse (ran by the Andøy Kommune) as a land research station. On the top of the lighthouse we count on a set of Bigeyes, special binoculars set on a tripod with an internal reticule system and a graduated wheel. The location and height of the lighthouse allow us a range of vision of 240 degrees, and 24 km towards the horizon, covering both the deep-sea Bleik canyon and Andfjord. When we see a whale, we can calculate his position fairly accurately using the reticule and graduated wheel and a computer program made specifically for this purpose. Beside the position, we also collect the data on species, group size and behavior. We can follow one sighted individual or group to study the surface behavior of different species and the interaction with human activities.
Land-based surveys are conducted every day, year-round, as long as there is good visibility.