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Project Documentation - Phase I - 2007 to 2009
Written by Andrew Stevenson   
Thursday, 01 February 2007 00:00


Environmental conservation is the outcome of good research and community education.

Bermuda lies halfway between the humpback whales’ feeding grounds in the western North Atlantic and the wintering and breeding grounds in the Caribbean. The Bermuda seamount serves as an ideal observation platform to study the annual northward migration of these animals during the spring months of March and April. Historical records indicate that in the past many of these animals remained around Bermuda breeding and feeding for much of the year, perhaps because the preferred feeding and breeding grounds in the Caribbean were overcrowded.

For centuries, Bermuda’s survival as a colony depended on whaling and its products: meat, leather and blubber. As recently as 1940 and 1942 the last two humpback whales were hunted and killed in Bermuda. In the 1970s local Frank Watlington and Dr Roger Payne, Ocean Alliance Founder & President, made some of the earliest and best recordings of humpback whale songs and put Bermuda on the New Age music map. One of Dr Payne’s articles in National Geographic Magazine contained a record of whale sounds for which 10.5 million copies were printed - still the largest single print order in the history of the recording industry. ‘Songs of the Humpback Whale’ is the best selling natural history recording ever released. Since then, whale watching has become one of the fastest growing sectors in the tourism industry.

While whale sightings around Bermuda diminished during the 1980s and 1990s, over recent years the humpbacks have been lingering here in increasing numbers and for longer periods of time. No one is really sure why. Despite the winter wind and open ocean waves, the crystal clear waters of Bermuda provide ideal conditions to identify, record, film and observe the behaviour of these leviathan animals.

Educating children as to the importance of whales in Bermuda’s history and culture, whilst providing insights into whale behaviour will be the object of the film. Soliciting schoolchildren’s active involvement in the making of a documentary film from beginning to end and providing them with an opportunity to be at the leading edge of one of the last frontiers of natural history, studying the fascinating behaviour of humpback whales, will also be integral to the entire project. Building a database of an identification catalogue of humpback whale tail flukes and linking them to corresponding underwater footage and sound recordings of the same whales will also be a key component of the project.

Project Proposal: To take high definition video of the humpback whales migrating past Bermuda over a three-year period and to complete a finished 30-50 minute documentary highlighting the cultural heritage of whaling in Bermuda with the increasing opportunities to research, study and watch these whales.

To coordinate the process of making the documentary film and observing whale behaviour with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Youth and Sport After School Programme, the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute and the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo's ongoing Educational Department and their highly successful and well-established outreach programmes to Bermuda’s school system.


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