Spotlight Russia: despite challenges, Western Grey Whale team presses on

This post was filed from the field by the International Fund for Animal Welfare Western Grey Whale Research team collectively. - MV

The International Fund for Animal Welfare Western Grey Whale research team.Let’s introduce ourselves.

Good afternoon.

We are an expedition on Russia’s Sakhalin’s Island, researching grey whales. This expedition has been held around a gulf of water called Piltun already for sixteen years, and adventures of our whales became already famous among many people.

Reading these stories you will get a sense of the cold from our work in the Okhotsk sea region, looking for whales, and how difficult being a participant of scientific team during the hard conditions of our expedition and what difficulties we have to fight with every day. 

We hope these posts will be interesting not only for serious researchers of the marine mammals, but also for others who are keen of these amazing animals.

This year, the people are involved in IFAW WGW expedition are:

Maxim Sidorenko – scientific employee of FEB RAS – the head of our expedition and also our driver.

Evgeniya Dolgova  – zoologist – the constant participant and reliable supporter of our expedition.

Oksana Savenko – marine biologist – the expert in photo identification and the lone foreigner in our group.

Igor Usoltsev – the student-oceanographer, traveler and translator.

Stepan Varlamov –the chief cook, fisherman, military man and just the multilateral person.

Lesha Shipulin – the student psychologist and author of these and future lines.


The blog of Piltunski expedition, researching grey whales.

Season 2012, first note.

First three days: arriving, camp arrangement, testing our equipment in a gulf.

Sakhalin Island has met us with unusually friendly weather: warm June sun was in a harmony with freshening wind. Nothing worried us that day.

23 of June:

A car brought us to the camp. What we have seen, was so sad, we couldn’t imagine. Since one year of our absence many things have been broken, water in a well was dirty, traces of human and animals, who were using free rooms as they wanted to, were everywhere.  The rest of the day was spent for unloading our stuff.

The second day we were preparing our boat for the work in the sea and supporting our camp with light and water. At the end of the day we did first observation from the lighthouse of first four whales. 

Third day:

The sky is very cloudy. It is no rain, but we are expecting it very soon.

Despite all our difficulties we have conducted a test survey in the sea. Our group was told about all rules of safety precautions and behavior in extreme situations. During our expedition in the sea we have found out about problems with our boat engine, the cooling system, to be more exact. The usual needle was a solution, we needed. After that we were at the exit of the gulf. On the way back fog was chasing us from the north.

The boat is on the land again, clean and safe. Our plans are to get ready our second boat and to be instructed how to observe from the lighthouse.

P.S.: Despite the expectations it has been no rain. The sun appeared again, just like our good mood. It seems the nature blessed the goals of our expedition, us and you, our readers.

Best wishes,

Participants of IFAW WGW expedition 2012.

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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation