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Whale Watching in Silence

It's a triple whammy of good news: for the planet, marine life and people.

One of the good things that's come out of lockdown is the peace and quiet the animal world has enjoyed in the absence of human activities. Whales, in particular, have been able to communicate with each other over vastly increased distances without interference from the noise of shipping.

Tourism in places like Alaska and Iceland relies heavily on the allure of wild animals, but activities like whale watching also educate people about these creatures and inspire support for conservation measures. At the same time, the rumbling engines of the boats can be stress-inducing for whales and other marine life, not to mention the damaging carbon emissions involved in powering the whole endeavor.

Happily, in a triple whammy of good news for the planet, marine life and people, a new silent, zero emission boat designed specifically for whale watching is now plying the ocean from Iceland. The boat, named Opal, is the brain-child of North Sailing, the company that pioneered whale-watching in Iceland back in 1995. Not only does it quietly cut through the water, but is also electric, powered exclusively by renewable hydro and geothermal energy.

Those who are fortunate enough to board the boat for a whale-watching excursion will find that without the roar of the engines, they are able to truly take in the peace and beauty of their surroundings. The crew benefits as well. The ship’s captain is happy to report that “after a day on this boat, [he] comes back to shore and [he has] no headache.”

The most common species spotted in this region are humpback, minke, white-beaked dolphin, sei, and harbor porpoise, but blue whale, orca, pilot whale, and sperm whale also make an occasional appearance. The silent engines on the boat make it more likely for the whales to hang around, letting curiosity get the better of them, uninhibited by the stressful sounds of loud engines.

Altruistically, North Sailing has even gone as far as offering blueprints of their carbon-neutral vessels to other whale-watching companies, in the hope that more operators will choose to prioritize the whales and the environment.


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