25.01.2011 Ocean Sounds is Open again!

Gabi Reichert and her family are staying in Henningsvaer for a month and will help to open the Center of Ocean Sounds. If you are around, please come to visit us!
we can show you our beautiful slide show and you will get a lot of information, Gabi might even offer a Photo-course.
Please give her a call and find out when she will be there:


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16-23 jan visit PakeaBizkaia in Bilbao

Our new partner PakeaBizkaia invited me for a week to their home harbour in Bilbao, Spain 16-23.01.2011. we have many things in common and want to educate people about life in the Ocean and thereby protecting it. on 20.01.2011 PB organised a conference at the Maritime Museum and I will give a lecture at 19 o’clock about the Marine Wildlife in Lofoten and Chile. There will be beautiful pictures and of course sounds of the whales and dolphins, even cod..If you are around please come by and support our idea!
On Saturday we will sail out to the Bay of Biscay with AMBAR (local NGO) and maybe find some whales. more news will follow soon…

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Whales on Christmas until the first week of January 2011

Since the days around Christmas, several people on Andøya have witnessed an amazing arrival of herring in Andfjorden, and with the herring, the arrival of hunting killer whales and humpback whales. Sightings of humpbacks have also recently been reported outside Senja.

One of the first reports were from the 22 of December, when both killer whales and humpback whales were seen outside Andoya and the highest numbers included 50-100 killer whales and around 7 humpback whales including mother+calf pair.

You can view a video on the event here:

After hearing and seeing this, Fredrik Broms went to Kvalnes on Andøya to collect pictures for the Ocean Sounds photo-ID catalogue. When he arrived, both the killer whales and the humpbacks, which had previously been feeding very close to land, were much further out and to the south in the fjord. So what he needed was a boat and with the help of wonderful local people they got out in the fjord and came upon a group of 5 humpbacks (including a mother and her calf) feeding together with a pod of orcas. Short days and little light due to the polar night made photography at sea difficult, but hopefully the identification of the humpbacks will give us new insight into their lives, which we know so very little about. We can’t wait to see if some of the whales are known from before!

In this area whale watching has a long tradition, but winter whale watching with small boats are much more challenges for the whales and people. Most of the boat drivers do not have experience in approaching whales and there is a risk that such tours will disturb the whales from feeding. However, if done properly and carefully this will be the most amazing experience of your life time! If you can’t go out at sea there are possibilities to view these magnificent animals from land, the best and the coolest observations have been made from land; the killer whales have almost been up on the rocks outside Breivika, Ramså and Kvalnes and people could hear their feeding calls on land! So, keep your eyes and ears open!

All pictures were taken by Fredrik Broms on the 27 Dec, in the Andfjorden outside Dverberg, on Andøya in northern Norway. Fredrik saw 5+1 humpback, 1 minke and ca 8 orcas on that day alone!

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Happy New Year 2011!

Summary of 2010

Now that the last days have passed by, I feel like I should say something about the year 2010. It has been a critical for Ocean Sounds and it nearly was the last year for our operation. In short all possible things failed, ended or broke down, expected help did not arrive, disappointments and the bad weather and the economical crisis reduced our already bad economy and made it difficult to survive…but there were helping hands and minds and we will be able to continue in 2011!

It all started in Chile, during field work in cooperation with the Scientific Tourism Project of Aysen (http://www.turismocientifico.cl/). We had 4 months of good and productive work with a lot of whales and dolphins, seals and birds in an amazing nature: the fjords and channels of Patagonia in Aysen. However some problems appeared, one captain killed the engine and we floated several hours without contact in deserted channels, fire on board, storms in a sailboat and the terrible and devastating earthquake of Chile. With a good crew and coworkers and friends we managed to get through with it all. However, there was a sight I could not ignore: the enormous expansion and negative impact of the salmon aquaculture farms on the natural environment of Aysen. The environmental destruction was visible everywhere, in form of floating and stranded garbage, the boat traffic, deserted farms and infected fish carcass, unemployed people with alcohol and violence problems, noise and chemical pollution… we decided to publish this in Nature Correspondence (nature465-17-june-2010), It was my duty as a scientist to report this matter for other scientists and politicians to act. It had a great impact, the media published it worldwide and scientists from Chile and Insurance companies from Norway contacted me. I hope this brought light into a rather dark part of the Chilean industry and politics. By introducing sustainable tourism, we hope to change the way people and nature can live together in this beautiful and remote place of the world. We have done our first step in creating sustainable marine wildlife tourism in Aysen, next year we will introduce it to tourists. Come and support our project!

Then back in Norway I had to move Ocean Sounds to a new location, unfortunately I lost the old center and had to start all over again. Without helping hands and friends, I would not have had the heart and motivation to renovate a new center and office. But people arrived and helped to swing a brush or installed electricity and so on, and we could reopen in June. Moving the company cost additional money, which we did not have, so I was hoping for a good tourist season. The tourists came, but the bad weather as well. The tourists left again (some disappointed) but the bad weather stayed until September. We had to cancel more than 60% of our tours, because we need flat sea to find the whales in our small boat. The financial situation became worse every day and on top of all, the boat engine started to have problems, the hydrophone and the car broke down…it was definitely one of these years that challenged my idealism and motivation…but then when all looked dark and even people that promised help turned their backs on me, two other doors open, one man gave a great donation and a friend gave me a private loan to be able to pay the bank loan. Ocean Sounds was saved in the last minute!!

During the summer months we managed to find whales and birds we have never seen before as well as old friends, again we found matches of pilot whale groups in the Vestfjord, these findings indicate that the same whales visit us every year.

We had several media coverage both for the salmon problem in Chile as well as the whaling issue in Norway, in addition the Lonely Planet Magazine published an article in their April issue, the German TV ARD made a small documentary and the German magazine Outdoor will publish an article in the January issue. I went to one conference and discussed the problem of noise in the sea (TAS, www.aquadyne.no, Oslo) and participated in a 3 week art exhibition in Oslo: gentle actions to discuss the interaction of whales and humans ( http://gentleactions.wordpress.com). We were several whale activists from different back grounds and the event was a great success.
Out of this we will organize a small festival in Henningsvaer 1-7th of August 2011 to support the life of nature, especially the marine environment with its great whales and dolphins.
Scientific publications 2010:
We published a Nature correspondence (nature465-17-june-2010), a joint article on Bottlenose abundance in South Pacific (Aqu.Mamm.2010, 36(3), 288-293, pdf-tursiops-2010) and a joint article with Andy Foote et.al., on the genetic differentiation among North Atlantic killer whale populations (Mol.Ecol.2010, pdf-foote-et-al-2010).

The small research fund from the WWF gave a starting tip, then again the application for a research fund from the Northern Norwegian council was denied without reason, equipment broke down and the weather turned bad…all critical challenges, but with the help of friends and good people we managed to continue and we will go on to the next year! But we need your help for 2011!

For 2011 we plan:

Open the center 18th of April and start giving lectures and show our NEW slide show! You can call or write us an email in advance, or just come by when you are in Henningsvaer.

Marine Wildlife-tours will be offered later, we keep you updated for more details. We have to change our routines for the marine wildlife-tours because of our research project and we will not be able to take as many people with us as the years before. Please write an email for booking, unfortunately we will not be able to accept day tourists anymore.

Visit PakeaBizkaia 16-23th of January in Bilbao, Spain. I will visit the people from the PakeaBizkaia project (www.pakeabizkaia.com/en) and we will organize a small conference with talk, films and discussion rounds. I will post more information later.

Whale festival 1-7th of August: open festival in Henningsvaer with different programs from artists, scientists and tour operators. The Program will be announced here in a few months. The festival aims to promote awareness of the beauty of whales, especially pilot whales and learn about their lives and, our interaction with them.

I hope you like our work and will continue to support us and we will always welcome you in the north!!

THANK you all for your great support and good wishes….

I wish you all a happy New Year with many dreams to come true!

Heike Vester,
biologist & founder of Ocean Sounds

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