News 2005-2006

29.12.2006 start of our fieldwork in tysfjord
… yesterday we drove the boat from henningsvaer to tysfjord to  do more field work until the 25th of january. today we left the harbour at 8:30 and found whales 9:31 behind bekkenesholmen an island not far away. they were slow travelling and soon started to chase herring up to the surface. there were lots of spy hops all around our boat and we could collect nice data (sound recordings and behavioural data). after an hour the whale watching boats arrived and the whales started to travel away from the boats. this continued for another 3 hours and we stayed in one place and recorded everything. was a good day for whale chasing!
in the end we met a group resting. we know them, it was our AC-group, we saw them already on the 22.11., they moved further into the tysfjord…we hope to see them again, maybe tomorrow?

15.12.2006 ocean sounds received a donation!

SpareBank 1 Nord-Norge gave a donation of 200.000kr to ocean sounds for research! it is wonderful to know that there are local businesses that believe in our work, what a great help and motivation! THANK YOU!

whales are back but the weather is bad…
… groups of whales are travelling into the fjord every day, but we cannot get out very far because of the big waves and the short daylight. we pray for calmer winds… in any case it is very good news that the whales are back!

bad weather, no driver and no whales….
.. what is happening? last week we could not go out because of the strong winds from the south, now we lack a reliable driver.. we checked with the whale watching company and they have not seen whales during the last 3 days.
this is a difficult season for us and I really hope that things will soon calm down and the whales will return.
3 more days and the sun dissapears until the 6th of January…

26.11.2006 bad weather

we tried our best, but the waves were too high

24.11.2006 last day on langøysund
today we left from svolvaer again and drove around lille molla and found whales further in the fjord. they were travelling at medium speed out of the fjord. the whales were not very cooperative and we left to drive towards MS Langøysund that had whales outside offersøy. the wind picked up and it was rather difficult to get there in time. researchers had tagged the whales and by the time we got there the whales had already dissapeared.
we said good bye to the people on Langøysund and headed back to Svolvaer. Merete and I had to drive a small plastic boat. we got hit by a big wave and got totally soaked but survived laughingly!
….but it was good to be on my own RIB again in Svolvaer, which was taking the waves wonderfully back home to Henningsvaer!
I had a beautiful week on MS Langøysund, thank you all!

23.11.2006 orcas outside skrova

2 male orcas were right outside skrova travelling slowly close to land. the rest of the groups was travelling further out in the fjord. the direction was again out of the vestfjord. we stayed with them for a little while and because there were too many boats for sound recording, we searched for another group further in the fjord. after 1,5 hrs we gave up and returned to the group that was already outside henningsvaer. they were not cooperative anylonger and there was a second group travelling outside stammsund. but the day came to an end at 14:30, when it got too dark to take pictures we returned to henningsvaer. … but we had very nice northern lights later that night!

22.11.2006 auks on the menu!

another good day at sea, there were a lot of travelling whales in the vestfjord today. all together it may have been over 100 animals. we followed a group of around 30 animals that were slowly travelling and resting. they were curious towards the boat and we got nice pictures. I saw 2 new born calves. in the end 2 juveniles and female were eating auks! I have never seen that before…

21.11.2006 carousel feeding!
today we were extremely lucky and found a group of ca 20 animals carousel feeding outside lille molla island. the snorkellers had their life time experience and we got pictures and sound recordings. 2 hours of full action and then they left suddenly as if they were never there.

20.11.2006 orcas outside henningsvaer!
we had strong waves and going out was not that easy. I ewnt on board MS Langøsyund to do research for 5 days. when we came out of the henningsvaer harbour, I saw the first fin and there were about 7 animals travelling fastly out of the fjord. after 30 minutes we had to bring the small boats back to the harbour and left a second time, when we found a new group also travelling fastly out of the fjord, just outside henningsvaer. how lucky we were!
we follwoed that group for ca 1 hour and they came often close to the boat, on our last encounter the whales came straight towards the side of the boat and i could see 2 calves, one of them still pink, newly born! another animal had a tag on its side, maybe from the researchers deeper in the fjord? I called Tiu later. maybe the researchers have lost one animal? we stayed in henningsvaer for the night.

16.11.2006 the fjord was empty again..
… we went out for 3 hours and searched for whales between Skrova and Henningsvaer, many other whale watching boats were out searching in other areas of the Vestfjord, nobody has seen a fluke..the fjord was empty.
Yesterday the military tested their sonar in the fjord, when 3 male killer whales were observed by whale watching boats. In addition scientists put suction cups with D-tags directly on the whales. Was that all too much for the whales? We don’t know, we just hope that the whales will return after a few days.

It is remarkable to see that this season is completely different than the previous ones. The herring was late (due to warm water in the fjord?), and only a small part of the whale population followed into the fjord. And for the orcas, it was mainly male whales that came either alone or in group fo 3-5 animals. Where are the family groups? What does that mean? Are the males scouts to monitor activty in the fjord? Fishermen reproted that they have seen lots of groups further away from the Vestfjord. What made the whales stay further away? was it the increased human activity around the whales, or the larger distribution of herring?
many questions and no answers. it will be interesting to see what will happen during this season and whether this was a single occurrence or it marks a future trend.

10.11.2006 > 100 pilot whales!!
soon after we left the harbour of Henningsvaer towards Skrova, we saw the fins coming at us, first 20, then 40 and then we were surrounded by pilot whales! they came up to us, a lot of spy hopping and we could get really good pictures and sound recordings, a perfect day!

09.11.2006 ca 30 orcas in vestfjord
today we went first in the middle of the fjord and listened for whales and we heard them eating somewhere but it soon stopped. after searching for a while, we saw a group of ca 30 animals swimming from Skrova towards Moholmen, followed by 7 whale watching boats. The group soon split in 3 and they all started to rest. we stayed alone with one group of around 8 animals with 2 big males and a newborn calf. after 40 minutes they joined again with the others and started travelling into the fjord again. we left them after another 40 minutes and we got good photo-id pictures and sound recordings, but the animals did not produce any calls, often they travell in silence.

08.11.2006 no excursion
today we stay on land and work on our data.

07.11.2006 first sighting of orcas!

.. choppy waves and a long way towards Skrova were we found herring fishing boats seining for herring. that means that part of the herring moved further into the vestfjord. we received a call from a whale watching boat that they had a group of whales with them only 3 miles away. when we got there, the orcas were diving. when they came up we could see that there were 4 animals, including a big male. but these whales did not want to be with boats and dissapeared every time boats apporached them and were diving into another direction. soon we gave up and left the scene as more boats were arriving… sad day… since once again I ould see that the voluntary whale watching regulation were ignored by the whale watching boats..when whales show obvious signs of disturbance (like today) the boats should leave them alone.

06.11.2006 no orcas but seals..
.. the weather was too rough to go out on the vestfjord, so we turned and went to the outside of Lofoten. On our way we saw 20-30 sea eagles and 3 harbour seals!! One of the male seals even breached in front of the boat. On the outside we had mountains of waves and could not see any whales, so we turned back to the seals. Unfortunately it started raining and we had ten rough minutes in the end, but thanks to our very good driver Pål we made it safely back to the harbour of Henningsvaer.

05.11.2006 we had heavy rain showers and we decided to stay on land. The center was open all day and we actually had some interested visitors. Orca Diving came again with their visitors and listened to the orca lecture, thank you for supporting us!

… today we have strong winds coming from the south west and heavy rain. there will be no trip today. we will stay inside and work on photo-id and sound analysis.

03.11.2006 no orcas
… many whale watching boats went out on the vestfjord and searched all day for whales. Fishermen reported that orcas were around the island of røst, too far for us!
at 14:40 whale watching boats found a group pilot whales north of the island of Skrova, most probably the same group that has been seen 3 times druing the last 2 weeks.
we went out at 13:30 – 15:00 and searched the vestfjord westover from Henningsvaer and found and heard nothing.

02.11.2006 field trip
..we went out from Henningsvaer at 10:30 and drove all the way to Ballstad, listened with our hydrophone for whales..nothing..only boat sounds….we slowly moved back again towards Henningsvaer, close to shore and listened again just outside Henningsvaer…..nothing…only distant boats…contact with whale watching skippers did result in the same conclusion: the vestfjord was empty today!

Herring has moved into Vestjord and the orcas are following

…over night the herring finally came into the Vestfjord, the water temperature has dropped. And with them a group of orcas followed. The were sighted by Pierre (orca diving) not far from the town of Stammsund.

First orca sighting in Vestfjord!
..yesterday there were sightings of orcas in Austnesfjord, not far from here! Our boat is not ready yet, we hope to finish it by next week. We can’t wait to get out and start the field season!!!!

Ocean Sounds is now part of the Norwegain Ecotourism Project
We are one of 8 different companies in Norway that were chosen to be test companies for the Norwegian Ecotourism Project, more information soon!

Ocean Sounds bought a boat!!!
..we picked up the boat yesterday, a 7,3m zodiac RIB, the engine and pictures come soon! The field work is safe and we just have to hope for a lot of orcas.

Sue the Mink baby!
We found a very young mink baby on the road. It was alone and did not move. We assume a bird (eagle or crow) took it away from its mother and droped it. After a few hours it started to eat and is growing now every day. We found out that it is a little girl and we named her Sue. She is a very popular crew member at the center!

We are finished and opened the center!!!
Today (30.06.2006) we open the ports of the Ocean Sounds Science Center! We are open every day from 10:00 until 20:00 during July and August. Come for a visit!

First visit at the center
On the 10th of June, a group of German and Swiss tourists stopped at the center for a short briefing and supported ocean sounds.  The first step towards a research boat is done! Thank you!

Midnight sun over Henningsvaer
27.05.2006 the midnight sun was shining into the window of the ocean sounds science center in Henningsvaer. The summer came with a fresh northern wind breeze.


Renovation of the science center
.. we have come a long way with the renovation and hope to open in 2 weeks! The walls are painted and we are waiting for more material to finish the floor before we can set up the sound system… we will keep you informed!
Ocean sounds received a package full of paint brushes

23.02.2006 Ocean sounds received a package full of paint brushes
for our renovation of the science centre
from Habico Künstlerpinsel Manufaktur Bieringer GmbH,
Vielen Dank!!!!!!

Dead harbour porpoise
dorsch22.02.2006 I found a dead Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)
in the harbour of Henningsvaer,
which was discarded from cod fishing boats.
Fishermen reported a high mortality of harbour porpoises
as by catch in this seasons’ cod fishing.
Every year seals and small whales get entangled and drown
in the cod fishery nets.

Read more about by bycatches and entanglements of marine mammals:
Ocean Sounds received the WWF Arctic Tourism and Conservation Grant 2005
17.02.2006 Ocean Sounds received the WWF Arctic Tourism and Conservation Grant 2005!!!
This grant of will be used to create a science exhibition at the ocean sounds science center in Henningsvaer.

Thank you so much!!!

on January the 6th the sun came back
2006 on January the 6th
the sun came back
Happy new Year!


Rescue operation of a grown male killer whale
4.11.2005 Rescue operation of a grown male killer whale that got himself entangled in fishing gear outside Skrova/Lofoten!
A 5 hours struggle in cooperation
with Orques Sans Frontières
and the Norwegian coast guard
ended successfully!


From the 16th to the 29th of November,
ocean sounds organised a field research trip
to collect biopsy samples of killer whales
to investigate toxicology, DNA
and take sound recordings of the whales.
This was done in cooperation with Dr. Tiu Similä (
and the Norwegian Polar institute,
and partly sponsored by the WWF
(read article


News 2007

27.12.2007 still bad weather and bad news, when will it end?
we could not get out at sea since 21.12. because of strong winds, big waves from the open sea and/or strong rains. this has been the darkest dark period we had so far and everybody hopes for the sun to return and the winds to calm down. it seems that whale groups are out in the fjord, the last group was seen on the 22.12, but it is simply to difficult to get there.
we use our time on land and finish our photo-ID catalogue, so we can cooperate with other scientists working in this field. I hope with cooperation will we still be able to shed more light on the whales biology and migration. especially now that so much is changing (weather/migration and occurrence of fish…) it becomes a much greater challenge to study killer whales and a good cooperation between scientists will be necessary.
On the other hand funding the research projects is extremely difficult, I have again been rejected by the Norwegian research council for a PhD stipend. that means that I have to try to earn my research money with Ocean Sounds and all the people and organisations that help us!
2008 will be a hard year, but I am looking forward to it!


21.12.2007 wind, eagles and oscar the seal!
finally we could go out with the boat again. unfortunately the waves were too big to drive on to the Vestfjord, but we found 3 sea eagles close to islands and we saw a head sticking out of the water, it was our well known male grey seal “oscar”! I have not seen him since September and was afraid that he was gone, but my spirit lightened up today, when he was on the surface in front of our boat, looking at us for a long time!
Today is the shortest day of the year and soon we will be able to go for longer tours again.

19.12.2007 still too much wind and rain..
what is happening to our weather? we have the worse time in years! especially during the dark period, rain, clouds and strong winds are depressing! if this weather persists, we have no chance of getting out on sea, but we hope for calmer days after Christmas, this cannot last for ever! but we will not have white christmas, in fact it is much warmer up here in the Arctic than in southern Norway. How much proof do we need that the climate is changing and our so called leaders of the world should ACT NOW!!!

10.12.2007 no whales, but a large fishing boat
today we could make it out on the fjord. the waves were still high but we saw a very large herring fishing boat in the middle of the fjord and we made our way towards it. but to our disappointment, they were not fishing, but simply resting. the time for the big fishing boats is over, now only smaller coastal herring fishing boats are allowed to go to the herring fields. the large boat we observed today, could take 1600 tons in one catch! what a monster!
we felt very small next to it, dancing around in the waves like a nutshell.
after a couple of hours we had to give up our search and drive back. it was quite an experience to be between waves that are higher than yourself… it makes one realise how small we are…

9.12.2007 waves were too big for us..
we tried and after 30 min had to turn around, the waves were too high for our little boat. but we heard from whale watching boats that one group of killer whales was travelling further in the fjord. we don’t know what they were doing and which group it was, but hopefully we will receive some pictures of the whales to identify them.

8.12.2007 whales again!
finally today we could go out again and we hit some big waves early in the day, but it calmed down. around 12 o clock we received a call from Norderlicht that we have just passed a group of killer whales and we went back and found them slowly travelling just outside of Henningsvaer. They were at the same place we found whales many times before. The whales were in no hurry and 3 males even rolled and spy hopped out of the water. This group of whales was unknown to us and unfortunately they did not produce any calls…
we will look again tomorrow if the weather permits it.

7.12.2007 lots of whales north…
now we got it confirmed by the scientists:
hundreds of killer whales, fin and sperm whales linger with herring fishing boats, north off the coast between Andoya and Troms!
if we could just get there…but our rubber boat (strong as it is) will not make it.
so we will still try our luck in the Vestfjord during the next few days, together with desperate whale watching boats. I hope together we will find a group or 2… cross your fingers for us!

6.12.2007 last day with sun in henningsvaer
today we will see the last glimpse of our sun above the horizon. she will come back on the 6th of January.
unfortunately the southeastern winds are still blowing strong and we can’t make it out on the fjord with our small boat. this year our patience has been tested to its limits! but some whales are here, we heard yesterday of a group travelling really fast out of Tysfjord into the open Vestfjord. probably another disappointed whale group that did not find any herring this year. it does not seem likely that herring will enter the Vestfjord this year. most of the herring is still at the same place north and off the coast fo Andenes (Vesteralen-Troms). we are in contact with scientists that search this area right now and will get back to you with more news later.

04 December 2007. On a personal note – a farewell greeting
Hi, my name is Martin. I was so lucky as to be able to assist Heike and her work here at Ocean Sounds during the last four weeks or so. As this is my last day before I return home into the vast forests in the south of this country, I want to take this opportunity for a more personal farewell note. At the close of this brief sojourn in the arctic, two impressions dominate: gratitude, and disenchantment.

My gratitude goes to the people I have worked with: this is a thank you above all to Heike, but also to Emelie, and to Odd Petter. It is also a thank you to this place, a place that has shown me many a different face.

My disenchantment feeds on the hangover of a recently sobered reverie. Like so many other people before me, I have come here to encounter killer whales. I have come to hear with my own ears that short exhalation of water and air, and to see with my own eyes how that black, glossy fin slices through the water surface in a low arch. And it has happened, many a time. It is one thing to carry this fancy with you – whale. But to see that they are alive, that they are at home here, is something that cannot possibly be imagined. I have come here also to encounter the people – myself included – who are drawn to this place in pursuit of a similar dream. And what I have found, again and again, is this: intrusion.
I have seen by far more whale watching vessels on these waters than I have seen whales. I have seen half a dozen of vessels stalk a scattered few killer whales for hours at a time. Big rubber boats full of snorkellers would race towards a group of traveling whales at full speed, dropping these hopeful souls directly in front of animals who did not even flinch at the sight, but simply swam past them and out of sight before the snorkellers were able to blink. I have seen a large male repeatedly slap his tail onto the water after his group had yet again been trailed for hours by this fleet of dreams. I have heard of people telling of similar events, saying: ‘so cute, the whale waved to us’, and I have heard these dreams materialize into whispered words  the whale waved to us of similar events, saying: ‘or hours as the setting sun cast orange flickers onto their cheeks: ‘if only a whale could jump up right in front of the sun – what a great picture that would make’. It is anecdotes such as these that have left me with a deep ambivalence towards my own wish to encounter Others.

But there are alternatives to such aggressive intrusion.

One such alternative, and a gravely important one, is to choose actively and consciously whom we entrust with bringing us to the whales. A simple and workable criterion to chose could be whether or not a firm follows whale watching guidelines. It is up to each and every one of us to confront the firms, and to ask them: do you follow whale watching guidelines? And if you do not – why?

There is also another alternative: to simply invite Others to encounter us on their own terms. We need not travel to remote islands in the arctic to create chances for communion. In fact, we need not travel at all, regardless whether we live in a quiet country cabin or on the fourth floor of an apartment building surrounded by busy traffic on three sides. We need perhaps to go outside, for if we stay inside our own walls, it will be harder for us to meet Others on their own terms. But once we breathe the outside air, communion can be found anywhere, and at all times. The question is simply – are we willing to commune? Are we ready to listen?

I rose early one morning and sat down by the window overlooking the narrow harbor basin. No voices carried through the small cabin rooms. Everyone else was still sound asleep. Outside, the morning was holding its breath. No ship masts were rocking the air. Drowsy ropes were drooping between unmoving fishing vessels and the frozen jetty. The day had not yet begun. No living thing had yet awoken. Or so I believed, until my eyes caught a minute movement amidst wet, black boulders shielding a row of houses from the water’s gnaw. The movement evaporated before my eyes, then vanished into shadows. I waited. Another movement revealed the silhouette of a grey heron. Now I could see him clearly. One leg submerged, the other breaking the water’s hymen with caring meekness, not causing a single ripple, he was striding through the water with imperceptible slowness. Now I also saw the seagull. So ashen and large was she that it startled me how I hadn’t spotted her before. Camouflaged by her immobility, she stood further back, all attention converged on the heron. So still were the two of them, so fully absorbed in their moment, that it embarrassed me to witness this joint dance of patience.
Suddenly, as if out of midair, a silver fish was squirming in the heron’s beak. The same split moment in which the heron had darted into the water, the seagull had jerked in anxious expectation. Now, as this tiny silver creature was wiggling for dear life against a foe far beyond her comprehension, the seagull paced back and forth on a slick rock, squinting over at a breakfast she never would savour, looking with one eye first, then turning her head to look with the other. She never turned her back towards the heron, always anticipating her chance to pinch whatever he might drop.
The fish disappeared, and patience revisited.
The cabin began to quake quietly. Its pillars transmitted movements rolling through the ground. Something was approaching. Next, the sound of an engine roared through the windows and resonated through my skull. Then I saw headlights rounding a bend. As the car powered toward the dancing couple, its spell of patience broke. The heron flapped his wings only once before the air carried him. The seagull fluttered after him.
The car stopped, the engine went quiet, and out stepped the chef of a local inn. To him, this was just another arrival at work.

This brings back another encounter of some years back. One late-spring afternoon, I was sitting on a bench in a bustling downtown shopping mile. I began to observe. First I observed the people bumbling about, but soon I began to observe the people’s feet, enacting their unrehearsed city choreography with stunning swiftness and precision. After some time I realized that I was not the only one sitting in the audience. A sparrow displayed equal curiosity. He sat high above me, clutching his little brown claws around the rim of a rusted gutter. He, too, was observing. Suddenly he plunged off the roof. This living creature the size of a child’s fist let himself be pulled to the earth, his falling body radiating confidence as the ground was drawing closer. In midair his wings spread out to cushion his fall into a graceful curve. He touched down a few steps away from me, in the middle of the bobbing sea of legs and bags and feet. Now I saw what he had seen long before me. A breadcrumb had fallen from somewhere above these turbulences. I realized also that the sparrow had not simply cast himself into this march of towers haphazardly. He had waited and observed, he had sunken into the rules of the dance so perfectly that he was able to anticipate the precise moment in which a clearing would appear, leaving him only the blink of a sparrow’s eye to snatch the morsel and fly out again before the clearing would once more be flooded by the heaving tides. The sparrow returned to the roof, then ate. After he had finished, he resumed his seat to watch the show once more. Again he let himself fall, again he found the opening, again he carried a treasure up to his gutter. Thus passed his afternoon, and mine.

Ahead of me lies a thirty-some-hour bus-, boat-, and train ride. I look forward to it. Who knows what all I will be able to see on that journey?

02 December 2007. Strong winds and appreciative visitors
Still we are bound to land, as whitecaps determine the view onto the Vestfjord. But the forecast for the next days is promising.

In the meantime, a research team we collaborate closely with has spotted killer whales far into Tysfjord both yesterday and today. But as the strong winds dominate conditions there as well, chances for good observations are hampered decidedly.

We have been spending more time with data analysis and lecturing. During one of those lectures, some visitors had tears in their eyes. A small and cordial sign of appreciation and understanding across language barriers.

30 November 2007. No whales we hear, no herring is near
As the month is drawing to and end, the killer whales remain out of sight. Many boats were out again looking today. None, however, came within sight of any whales. Meanwhile, it is becoming less and less likely that significant numbers of herring will come into Vestfjord and Tysfjord at all this year.

29 November 2007. Rough sea and a weary sun

Finally we were able to go out again. That was the best news of the day.

What had initially promised to become a calm day soon turned out to be a rough rodeo ride across an upset sea. In the beginning, the wind blew from ahead of us. The perpetual up and down through waves bigger at times than our boat made it practically impossible to look out for whales. Especially so because the only perspective onto our surroundings available on a rubber boat is a worm’s eye view. On the other hand, it seemed unlikely that anyone wished themselves into a crow’s nest during this bobbing and rocking.

One week before the sun will retreat into hybernation, he shows definite signs of languor. Wearily he scrapes a flat arch above the wide horizon, only to nod off and descend again after a short while. Even so, he drags with him a trace of rosy and orange light that flares up the snowcapped mountain range.

Sometime during the day we received a phone call, informing us that killer whales had been sighted near Moholmen. So he headed there. By now the wind had turned again, blowing once more – from ahead of us. So again, we went on a rodeo ride. It turned out that we could not find the whales.

We could witness, however, the eternal play of gulls and fishermen, which was as entertaining as the solitary sea eagle who plunged through the hungry swarm with outstretched claws to snatch a treat out of the water. A puffin flew past us, as did a number of tiny dovekies (Alle alle).

Now it is evening, and our bodies yearn for a massage.

25 November 2007. Under the spell of the full moon
The full moon just passed, and as could be expected, it brought with it high tides and fierce winds. We have been bound to land for some days now. Meanwhile, the herring is still moving far north of here, and far off the coast. While we have been analyzing data and lecturing in the snug vicinity of a fire place, we could witness sleet, vertical rain, and thick snowflakes being driven past the panorama windows of our Science Center. It is too warm for this time of year, much too warm.

Once more, Aurora borealis revisited this remote place between the mountains and the sea, spinning her mysterious shrouds through the moonlit night with ever so patient grace.

19 November 2007. Traveling group & tail slaps

Again we found a group of traveling killer whales outside Henningsvaer. Six boats were with this group of whales. Although we were initially unable to see adult males with the group, one male returned later and repeatedly slapped his tail onto the water surface. Tail slaps are a common signal used by the whales when they are irritated or aggressive. The fact that so many boats had been lingering around them at close distance for a considerable time before the mail slapped his tail betrays the cause of the group’s aggravation.

18 November 2007. Thank you so much, Pierre deLatour!
Ocean Sounds has received a terrific donation – a video camera – by our friend Pierre Robert deLatour of Orques sans frontiers. This is a true blessing, as we have been forced to work with a hobby handy cam previously. Thank you so much, Pierre; you are a guardian angel of killer whales, and of the Ocean Sounds project.

16 November 2007. Group of twenty killer whales traveling in Vestfjord
Early in the day we received a phone call from friends on another boat that had seen a group of traveling killer whales. By the time we arrived, two boats were with the group. Among them was a large catamaran with two engines. This boat surged ahead of the whales once at high speed to position itself directly in front of the animals. They dove under the boat and swam on. After that, all boats at the scene behaved more cautiously. The whales split in two groups of 9 and 11 animals, respectively. We made sound recordings and recorded some calls, buzzes, and cliks, but our attempts were hampered by the killer whales’ considerable speed. They were traveling at around 12 – 15 knots.
Later, the whales headed towards a seine fishing boat. They lingered around curiously, but decided after some time to head on. That was when we decided to leave also.
With one exception, all groups of killer whales that we have encountered this season were traveling, and generally it appears as if they communicate very little when traveling.

14 November 2007. Female killer whale entangled in fishing net

We just received an underwater photograph, taken three days ago outside of Ballstad in Vestfjord, showing a female killer whale entangled in a long fishing net. The whale, whom we have not yet been able to identify, has gotten her fluke caught up in a net that divers report to be approximately one hundred meters long. The photograph shows how the net is dragging the female’s body down. Since these nets are made of nylon, a synthetic material made most of all to last, there is practically no chance for her to free herself. It is more likely that she will either tire from having to drag this enourmous weight with her without pause. Then she will drown. Or the net will get caught up in shallow waters. That, too, would most likely mean that she must drown. Our team is anxious, but there is little we can do at the moment. Ocean sounds is currently working on a more detailed report. We will publish it on our website as soon as it is finished.

13 November 2007. No killer whales, but dancing lights in the night sky
Today we searched the area southwest of Henningsvaer, but we searched in vain. By the time we were notified that as many as 30 animals had been sighted further up north, it was too late to drive there. The days are getting shorter and shorter.

But we were lucky enough to become witnesses of another spectacle later that evening. The night sky was cloudless and pitch black. And suddenly, aurora borealis appeared, dancing above our heads in shades of green and red and white.

10 November 2007. Killer whales outside Henningsvaer
Even as we were heading out from Henningsvaer, only half an hour after our departure, we spottet the first fountains of breathing whales on the horizon. The glaring morning sun illuminated them and led the way. The killer whales were swimming slowly and calmly back and forth. Sometimes they even came close to our boat. At the same time, ten whale watching boats were sojourning by a second group of killer whales outside of Skrova. We notified the boats of our location. Two of them came. One acted very cautiosly and took off again after a while. In contrast, the second boat, a rubber boat laden with snorklers, acted very aggressively. Repeatedly it sped up to the whales at full speed; snorklers dropped into the water and watched black shadows dart past. Soon, the whales were heading out of the fjord. Some of them were swimming so swiftly that we saw a few minor jumps. Later, five more whale watching boats headed towards us, coming from the northeast. It looked as if they were following yet a third group of whales. That was when we decided to head back home. Driving through the skerries of Henningsvaer, we were able to watch white-tailed sea eagles resting on rocks, cormorants sailing across the water, as well as a group of eider ducks and a few agitated auks.

09 November 2007. Two groups of killer whales in Vestfjord

Today we sighted two groups of killer whales. The first was travelling outside Stamsund and Ballstad. We were so far in the southwest of Lofoten, and the air was so crisp and clear, that we were able to make out the southermost Lofot-islands in the distance. We recognized the group as the same one we had see three times earlier this season, on 03, 04, and 07 November. The second group was also travelling, but a long way further into Vestfjorden, outside the island Skrova. When we first received the phone call that this second group had been sighted, it was around noon. At the time there were about twenty animals. By the time we arrived at three-thirty, the group has dissipated, and only a few animals were left. They, too, were travelling out into more open waters. Five boats followed in close succession after these animals until it became too dark to see.

3 + 4 11.2007 same group same place and then gone
on saturday the 3 rd the same group was feeding at the same place. on sunday the group and the herring were gone.

2.11.2007 carousel feeding outside Henningsvaer!
today we got a phone call from Cathy that whales were seen between Henningsvaer and Stammsund. when we arrived, the whales were alreayd engaged in carousel feeding. it was fantastic to see them feeding and to watch more than 9 eagles stealing some herring from them!
we got nice sound recordings and pictures today!

Ocean sounds received a research fond from the WWF
For the winter research in 2007/2008 we are supported by the World Wildlife Fund! We
are honored to receive a research fund from the WWF this year! We
will use the fund for direct research expenses such as boat maintenance,
gasoline and accommodation for the researchers. It is always very difficult
for us to get research funding because we are such a small organization. The
WWF fund makes it possible for us to conduct our research in 2007. Thank you
very much!!!


29.10.2007 killer whales in Vestfjord
we heard today from a whale watching boat that they have seen a group of killer whales travelling out of the  Fjord towards  Reine and they lost them there. The Herring seem to move closer to the coast but further north, outside Vesteralen. The whales were probably searching for herring in Vestfjord and as long as we don’t have herring here, we will not get the whales to stay here. The weather is still really bad and we cannot get out on our small boat. We just have to sit inside and wait…

28.10.2007 killer whales in the Vestfjord!
Finally the whales seem to be coming into the Vestfjord: I received a phone call from Cathy Harlow, who works as a guide on Orca-Lofoten and she told me about their encounter with ca 25 killer whales. The whales were travelling slowly from Tysnes towards Offersoy, they were spread out and it looks as if they were searching for herring. the herring on the other hand does not seem to be here in great numbers, but we have contact with a fishing boat that is out there right now and we will find out more later.

27.10.2007 bad weather
unfortunately the weather does not get better and we have no chance of going out on the Vestfjord to look for whales! yesterday many whale watching boats went out searching, but did not find any wahles. It looks like we have to be very patient this year…

19.10.2007 the lonely search on Vestfjord..
we went out at 13:39 and searched and listen until almost 17 o clock and we could not detect any whales! the weather was beautiful and we did see razorbills, fulmars, a young puffin, 2 eagles and a female grey seal, with (maybe) her youngster. we asked some fishermen that cleaned out their catch of cod out on sea about the whales and we only were confirmed that the herring and the whales are still far off the coast. we have to be patient!
today the southwestern winds are blowing hard again and we spent the day on land analysing our sounds from the summer.

Summer is over..
the summer is over and we had a wonderful season with beautiful weather and nice guests.
and now it is the time to prepare for the winter season. we have not had the luck to see any killer whales yet, but 3 killer whales were seen around henningsvaer on the 28 and 29th of September.
the herrings is still 180n mil outside Lofoten and we have to wait for it to move into the vestfjord before we can expect groups of whales.
as soon as we have news, we will post them!

05.09.2007 article in Aftenposten

Aftenposten, a Norwegian newspaper has published a very nice report written by Jan Gunnar Furuly, who joined us on a safari in the summer time. we are glad he presentet ocean sounds and ecotourism!
check out the link:

02.09.2007 no seals but eagles again
today we went out in rough waves and we could not sea the seals, have they gone?
we found 2 adult eagles, but most of the other birds have left. even the starlets are gathering for their journey south, the winter is surely coming!

26.08.2007 no seals but eagles
we could not find the seals today, it was quite rough out and they may have been behind the waves. but we saw 4 adult eagles flying above us and we had fun drive back.

21.08.2007 grey seals and harbour porpoises
today we had a fantastic day at sea: first we saw 2 female grey seals and oscar, who we could stay with for quite some time. then on our way out on the fjord it started raining, but then we saw the little fins of 7 harbour porpoises swimming around us!

19.08.2007 we found “oscar” and his friend again and 4 harbour porpoises
today we went out a little earlier at 13:20 and found one little shag, all others have gone. around the islands we saw a female grey seal and not far from her we saw a familiar face: the big old male grey seal “oscar”. in the beginning they were quite shy, but then they allowed us to be with them for 30 minutes and came close to the boat for the first time!
on our way to the vestfjord we saw 4 harbour porpoises, 3 of them close to the boat. then it started to rain and we had to go back to the harbour at 15:00 o c’clock.

16.08.2007 otter and seal
we had long waves and searched around the islands for seals, but could not find one. we saw an adult eagle trying to steal a gull youngster, but was chased off by the adult gulls. after 30 minutes we got a call that a minke whale was passing Henningsvaer and we drove off at once, but came too late. then we had a look at the young and adult se eagle close to land and watched the underwater world for a while, when we found a large group of makrell. and just coming from the group with fish in its mouth we found a female grey seal and an otter. in the end we saw the hurtigruten boats crossing each other just in fron of us. we came back into the harbour just before nine!

14.08.2007 no seals bot lots of birds

we found more than 30 geese and more than 100 cormorants on the islands, but no seals. we could not go out on the fjord due to big waves but we found 2 sea eagles, a young and one adult close to land. in the end we had a look at the beautiful underwater world wiht out underwaterbinoculars.

10.08.2007 Harbour porpoises on Vestfjord
we left with our safari at 18:00 o clock and looked at the shags, all exept one young one are gone to sea.
on our way to the vestfjord we encountered 5 harbour porpoises wiht one young, propably the same we saw before.
close to land we also saw a young and an adult sea eagle and viewed many small underwater creatures with our underwater binoculars, before returning home.

08.08.2007 beautiful weather and many harbour porpoises!
today we had one of our most beautiful day at sea: it was totally calm and the sun was shining when we left at 18:00. we went straight on the Vestfjord and found more than 8 harbour porpoises in our direct path! we could follow them for 20 minutes before they disappeared. On our way to the small islands we found a solitary young puffin and 3 more harbour porpoises far away. around the islands we saw lots of grey geese, and it seems like the cormorants are all gathering now. and for the first time this summer we saw little auks. on our way towards Henningsvaer, we found 5 more harbour porpoises, it hard to return to land, what a day! we came back at 20:30.

03.08.2007 orcas inside Reinefjord!!! Pictures wanted !!!
thanks to two friendly tourist from France, we found out that a family of ca 5 orcas were inside the Reinefjord (Bunesfjord) last Friday between 14-15:00 o’clock. Nobody knows what they were doing, maybe there was fish in the fjord or they just simply wanted a calm place to relax? we have received some pictures, but the orcas were far away and I could only see one subadult animal with a cut off tip, unfortunately that is not enough to identify them.

If anyone has been there and has pictures to share, please send them to us!!!
It is extremely important to monitor a year round distribution of these animals on Lofoten and Vesteralen.

06.08.2007 oscar has 2 female grey seals with him now…
despite the high waves we found a female grey seal at the islands where our old grey seal male lives. and not far from that site we found a second female hunting for fish. it lookes like the female grey seals are moving in and we hope that there will be plenty of babies in October!
we also looked at underwater creatures and saw 2 sea eagles and another dead seagull that found its death in a fishing net.

02.08.2007 eagle day
we went to many different islands, but could not find the seals. it was high tide and they may have been out hunting for fish. around the islands we found a lot of sea birds and a total of 5 sea eagles!

01.08.2007 oscar and a female grey seal
today we found oscar the old grey seal again with his lady friend. they were feeding and did not fancy us too much. on our way towards the eagles, we saw no puffins, they propably have already left to the open sea, where they will spend their time until next summer. when they return to their breeding Island Røst next year, we just hope the small herring will be there so their young will survive and they can continue breeding!
Close to an island we found one adult sea eagle and many goosanders.

31.07.2007 grey geese and eagles
today we had to face big waves around the islands and did not spot any seal, but we saw more than 30 grey geese. on our way back we also spotted 3 adult sea eagles and used our underwater binoculars to view the underwater world!

28.07.2007 grey seal and minke whale
today we found our old grey seal again at the same spot, but today he was alone, the female swam off, maybe hunting for fish. we went out on the vestjord but soon gave up, since a little boy on our boat did not feel so good. That was lucky because we found a young minke whales swimming, maybe feeding on fish, close to land and that safed the little boy’s (and our) safari!

26.07.2007 puffins and eagles
we had big waves and white caps on the fjord and we could not see any fins, but we saw many puffins swimming on the waves and found 2 adult sea eagles flying close to land.

24.07.2007 grey seal females are coming
we went to the islands where the old male grey seal has its residence and today we found a female swimming with him. It looks like the females are swlowly moving in and hopefully have their young in October! In additon we saw more than 30 cormorants and many small eider ducks swimming around the islands

21.07.2007 puffins, seal and 4 eagles
today we found oscar the grey seal again at the same spot and many puffins on the fjord… and close to land we found 4 sea eagles!

19.07.2007 water temperature 14C
the temperature of the water is warm enough to go for a swim, and we drove for 2 hours but could find a seal or a whale, but lots of cormorants and shags and other seabirds.

17.07.2007 “oscar” and harbour porpoises
we found our old grey seal at the same place, still alone, no females have moved in yet. Further out in the fjord we saw 2 harbour porpoises far away travelling into the fjord. we also met quite a lot of puffins that have left their nests on the Island Røst, because there was no small herring this year.

15.07.2007 big waves from the North
today we picked up a group from Viking Reisen in Germany from the town of Stammsund and it was quite rough. we could not go out on the vestjord or around the small islands and looked instead for eagles and we found a juvenile eagle under mountain “Vagankallen”.

13.07.2007 no seals but lots of birds
we went to the small islands outside Henningsvaer and were looking for grey seals, but did not detect any.
we saw a lot of different birds: razorbills, puffins, seagulls, black guillemots and a  sea eagle being attacked by seagulls. Unfortunately the cormorants have lost their second eggs as well and there will be no young ones this year. What is causing the lack of fish? we cannot say yet, maybe overfishing or a raise in water temperature or a natural fluctuation, but we have to wait for the following year to see whether this is repeating itself.

12.07.2007 grey seals and eagles
today we went around the islands and looked for seals and found our well known old grey seal male “oscar”, he was feeding and we could observe him for a while. Afterwards we found a sea eagle flying around the mountains.

11.07.2007 more harbour porpoises
the conditions were excellent again and we found 5 harbour porpoises just outside the lighthouse of Henningsvaer!

10.07.2007 harbour porpoises
first we saw 2 harbour porpoises right outside Henningsvaer, but after further searching we found more than 10 harbour porpoises out on Vestfjord and on our way back 2 minke whales crossed our way, what a day!

07.07.2007 stormy trip
today we went out to find seals and birds, but could not go out on the vestfjord due to strong winds coming from the East. Once we were with the small islands we saw a lot of different sea birds (kittiwake colony, laughing gulls, razorbill, black guillemot, puffins, oyster catcher etc), and ducks (eider and goosander) and a new cormorant colony (their eggs got eaten before and they have their second try).

after one hour of searching we went to other islands, but did not find the seals. It was high tide and they were probably hunting.

03.07.2007 harbour porpoises

today we had another beautiful day, sunshine and no wind, the best conditions to find whales! and we found them, 3 harbour porpoises, not far from Henningsvaer; they were travelling and coming close to our boat. I could make sound recordings of their weak clicks. With us today was a group of German tourists from Elchtours.

today we had 2 trips, the first one with Viking Reisen and we did not see many animals and no whales, but nevertheless it was a beautiful day out at sea in full sunshine!
in the afternoon we went out again with guests and the wind completely disappeared and we saw 2 harbour porpoises at once when we left Henningsvaer. The weather was fantastic and we saw many young puffins and other birds out at sea.
what a summer!

Stefan and Silke wanted to go shopping to Svolvaer, but had to return to pick me up immediately: they detected a Bascin shark (Cethorinus maximus), which was filter feeding on plancton, very close to shore. Bascin sharks are the second largest sharks in the world and can be up to 13.6m and weight 3 tons. The only bigger whale is the whale shark. We recorded the sounds and I could hear clicks and sounds from jumping mackerel.

28.06.2007 pilot whales in Vestfjord!!
today we went out in the vestfjord to listen for pilot whales, because the ferry has seen a group earlier this day. after half an hour listening I almost wanted to give, but then I saw the blows on the horizon! and soon we had 20 long finned pilot whales around our little zodiac. I have gotten fantastic sound recordings and our 4 German guests on the boat did not regret that they did not come yesterday, when the sun was shining, it was worth the waves, wind and clouds!!! a nice whale watching tour!

23.06.2007 minke whale whaler watching
today we were extremely lucky with the weather: sunshine and no wind. We spotted to harbour porpoises and a grey seal right outside Henningsvaer. We stopped our zodiac and watched the group of mackerel jumping out of the water for a while and recorded the seal. Then we saw a whaling boat very close by hunting 2 minke whales.
With excitment we followed the boat for an hour and we recorded the sounds: the engine motor as the boat was sneaking up to the whales and metallic clicks most probably coming from the whales. One of the whales was diving under the boat and got away, he passed our boat and went out of the fjord. The whaling boat did not shoot the other whale while we were there. Maybe it did not have the right size, whalers should not take large animals because of the bad quality of the meat… or it was because of our presence?
At midnight we still saw the whaler out in the fjord huning.
Whaling and whale watching is a reality up here in northern Norway and both businesses have the right to “utilize” the minke whales. However, the catch quota for the Vestfjord is fullfilled and from now on it will only be our whale watching there. Yesterday (27.6.07) we saw a piece of blubber floating in the sea, whalers cannot use the blubber and throw it away. Otherwise we could not spot a whale, even with flat calm sea. We will try again today.

2 stranded Spermwhales on Lofoten!

a few days ago two dead spermwhales washed on shore at Eggum and Kvalvika close to Fredwang.
They could be just two old males that died a natural death or they may be hit by a boat. I did not have the chance yet to have a close look at them. The teeth are gone (people sawed of the lower jaw), so we cannot figure out their age, but we may be able to say something about their size and find boat tracks. Male spermwhales migrate to the north to feed, while the females and young ones stay in warmer areas, such as the Azores.

03.06.2007 orcas outside Andøya!
I got a call from Marten, who is with Whale Tours in Stø, that more than 45 orcas were swimming on the outisde of Andøya. They were resting and travelling, spy hops and tail slaps were visible and the whale watching boat could be with them for 1,5 hours. I will receive pictures from Marten and will hopefully be able to identify them. Good to see them in the summer!

02.06.2007 three pilot whales were entering a bay
in the mornign at 1 o clock, people saw pilot whales swimming in a bay close to the town of Leknes. 2 people helped the whales with a small boat to find their way out of the fjord again. They reported that one of them was injured. Nobody took pictures and we cannot identify the whales or have further information. we searched later in the day, but could not hear or see them in Vestjord longer, we hope they made it back out on sea. We found some schools of makerel, which is early in the year and some terns were flying around and feeding on them. After 30 minutes a harbour porpoise came slowly closer, but was too shy to approach. the sea was flat calm and the sun was shining all night, a beautiful day!

Article about ocean sounds in GEOSAISON
In the June 2007 Edition of the German travel magazine GEOSAISON you can find a 2 page article by Nadin Kraft about ocean sounds!

ocean sounds on Animal Planet
at the moment Animal Planet is sending a series (Monty Hall’s adventures) and you can see an interview with Heike about whale watching and we took Monty out on sea to find orcas!

Noregian military sonar tests on killer whales and herring
Preliminary results of the military sonar test from november 2005 and 2006 are now available at:

Please have a look and make up your mind about these operations. It influenced the whales behaviour and it interferred with both whale watching activties as well as our research last season; and the answer to the question why they need to know the response of killer whales to their sonar signals, still remains open. Will they really stop the tests in future?


The CENTER is open again!
Hello and welcome! we opened the center again, from 12 – 18 every day except mondays (closed).
Come for a visit, the door is open, there is no entrance fee!
At the moment we can offer you a cup of tea or coffe, some souvenirs, an art exhibition by Anke Gruss (Lofoten pictures and jewlery), we can show you different presentations and a film on the orca research, nature and history of lofoten and last but not least a beautiful trip in our zodiac around henningsvaer islands to see the wildlife and listen to cod!

End of field season

… now our field season has come to an end, my assistances left home and I am back in Henningsvaer, working on our data. we had 3 very special weeks with the orcas and I have never had such close encounters with them before. we could collect good data for our research, since we saw the same group repeatedly for several weeks.