Saving the North Atlantic Right Whale - North Americadon't fail our whale
As the research vessel Song of the Whale follows critically endangered North Atlantic right whales along the eastern coast of the Unites States during this year’s migration, the five crew members on board are keeping extremely busy. Throughout their IFAW-commissioned expedition, they spend their time surveying whales around the clock, conducting critical research, and tracking human actions that could put mothers and calves at risk.
The crew are a close-knit group, most of whom have known each other for years, with a shared mission to help save North Atlantic right whales from extinction. To do this, they work together: Everyone pitches in with the many tasks aboard the vessel, which range from sailing and servicing equipment to watching for whales and cooking meals and cleaning the dishes and floors.
Meet Niall, Killian, Richard, Oliver, and Judith—the dedicated crew of Song of the Whale:
Niall has been sailing since he was four years old. After working for several years as a crew member aboard Song of the Whale, he worked his way up to skipper—but don’t call him captain. Niall prefers the more informal term skipper because it better describes his penchant for getting his hands dirty and pitching in with everyday duties with the rest of the crew. Back home in Ireland, he lives in the countryside with his pet dog, two goats, and a donkey named Frank. Niall enjoys windsurfing in his free time, and he’s an Irish history buff.
At 25 years old, Killian is the youngest crew member aboard Song of the Whale. As the first mate, he is second-in-command of the ship’s operations and the skipper’s right-hand man. His main job is to run and maintain the various machinery on board, especially the engine, generator, and electrical systems. Killian also serves as a sounding board for Niall on decisions about navigation and keeps track of the wear and tear on the vessel, fixing anything that breaks and stamping out new problems before they become larger issues. Having been on many seafaring adventures around the world, Killian plans to eventually go back to school to become a mechanical engineer.
Director of Marine Conservation Research International
After a career in software and electronics, Richard became involved in professional sailing and soon realized he wanted to put his skills toward a bigger purpose. That’s why he entered the world of conservation. Richard has been running Song of the Whale since 1992. The research vessel was his brainchild, and he oversaw its design and build for IFAW, then moved over to Marine Conservation Research (MCR) International in 2014 when IFAW transferred ownership of Song of the Whale. He now serves as director of MCR.
With a doctorate from the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, and twenty years of experience as a marine biologist, Olly is the lead scientist on board the vessel. He joined the Song of the Whale team in 2004 as part of IFAW and has been working for MCR since its inception. Olly is especially interested in using acoustic technology to listen for North Atlantic right whales.
A former video game developer, Judith wanted to do something more meaningful with her time, which led her to Song of the Whale. On board, Judith supports daily operations of the vessel, helping out with anything from leaks in the hydraulics system to ensuring Song of the Whale is headed in the right direction. She is also a skilled cook and makes gourmet meals for the crew—she even bakes bread on board the vessel.
All Song of the Whale research activities are conducted pursuant to NMFS ESA/MMPA Permit No. 21371.
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