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Arctic Adventure: Following Bowhead Whales

July 1, 2006

WHOI scientists will be working on the continental shelf near Barrow, Alaska from mid-August to mid-September, trying to determine the oceanographic conditions that make this region a favorable feeding environment for bowhead whales during their annual migration from the Canadian Arctic south to the northern Bering Sea.  The recurrence of bowhead whales near Barrow and other northern Alaskan native villages has provided a reliable subsistence hunting resource for those communities for generations.  The researchers are interested in identifying what conditions make this a location that whales repeatedly visit, how climate change may affect this behavior (e.g., more whales or fewer whales near Barrow), and how those changes could impact Iñupiat subsistence whaling.  As part of this effort, scientists will map physical and biological ocean conditions from a 43-foot boat and conduct aerial surveys from a small plane to map the locations of marine mammals in the study area.