[22-09-2008 to 24-10-2008]
Rare Icelandic Whale Sighting
Students on a marine mammal field course in Iceland are playing an important
role in a rare sighting of the bottlenose whale in the country.
Environmental and Marine Biology students from the University of St Andrews
are currently involved in a sighting that is being compared to the Thames
whale episode of 2006, except on this occasion there are up to four whales
The fourteen students are on the first international field course of its
kind - a collaboration between St Andrews and the University of Iceland -
and it is hoped that their observations will help locals understand better
why the whales ended up in a narrow fjord in Eyjafjšrdur.
Dr Patrick Miller, of the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews,
co-organised the course with Dr Marianne Rasmussen from the Hœsav’k Research
Center at Iceland which is being run at the Hœsav’k whale museum.
Fortunately for the young scientists, the trip co-incided with the
remarkable sightings of up to four Northern bottlenose whales which is
causing considerable interest amongst locals in Akureyri, the second largest
town in Iceland.
Dr Miller commented, "We know of no case where this species has been
observed in such a shallow, narrow fjord for so long. The big question is
whether they are in trouble like
the Thames whale or actually healthy and feeding."
Normally considered a deep-diving, oceanic species, between two and four
bottlenose whales have been sighted regularly for over a month close to
shore by Akureryi. The whales have not stranded, and have delighted local
residents with their fascinating behaviour. One of the primary aims of the
strictly observational field research conducted by the St Andrews students
is to find out whether the whales are feeding in the bay. They hope to
establish this by recording them underwater, looking for feeding sounds
called «buzzes«, which toothed whales make when they attempt to capture
Dr Miller said, "The students on this field course have been doing great
work, and are very excited that they are doing research that is truly
topical and important right now."
The work has attracted additional funding from the IFAW (International Fund
for Animal Welfare) and the town of Akureyri.
see here for further details
contact: Dr Patrick Miller