Sun shines as Song of the Whale team prepares for summer research season

Left to right – IFAW board member David Metzler, research scientist Olly Boisseau, SOTW skipper Richard McLanaghan, IFAW UK Director Robbie Marsland, whale expert Phd Marianne Rasmussen, Director of the University of Iceland Centre in Husavik and Phd Rögnvaldur Ólafsson, Director of the University of Iceland Centres.

The sun shines on the righteous, they say, and it has certainly been shining down on IFAW's state of the art sailing research vessel, Song of the Whale (SOTW) this week. She reached Iceland a few days ago after an exciting passage across the North Atlantic from Boston, USA. The days are very long in Iceland at this time and this year, they have been unusually sunny. A few hours after sailing into Reykjavik old harbour last Sunday the crew had hardly gathered breath before they set sail once again to help in the rescue of around 200 pilot whales that were in danger of stranding some 20 miles down the coast.

The vessel will be in Iceland for almost eight weeks. During this time the team is undertaking two distinct research projects - one with the University of Iceland about blue and fin whales in deep waters. The second is about the interaction between whale watchers and minke whales and is in collaboration with the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. The boat will also carry out a number of port visits to help educate local people about whales, IFAW and our work to protect whales and other animals.

Earlier today we held a media event at the old harbour with representatives of the University of Iceland. The event marked the collaboration between IFAW and the University and focused on the handover of an acoustic recording device that the boat will deploy in the deeps for the University's Marine Studies department. The device will record and count the number of blue and fin whales in the area. In the accompanying photograph Phd Rögnvaldur Ólafsson, Director of the University of Iceland Centres and whale expert Phd Marianne Rasmussen, Director of the University of Iceland Centre in Husavik, are officially handing over the acoustic device to Robbie Marsland from IFAW. The University Centres are located all over Iceland and IFAW works in close cooperation with many of them.

This handover event caused a mini media explosion in Iceland. It was covered by the two main national TV stations - RUV National TV and Channel 2 TV, RUV National Radio and the two biggest national newspapers - Morgunblaðið Newspaper (web and TV) and the Daily Fréttablaðið. We were very pleased to be the centre of such media attention as it further establishes IFAW as a serious science-based organisation working closely with Icelandic institutions in the context of our interest in the welfare of whales and other marine mammals.

Tomorrow, the boat will be open to the people of Reykjavik to explore and discover more about it and the work of IFAW. More blogs will follow.

--RM

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