Hurtigruten Partners With California Ocean Alliance to Protect Antarctica Whales

Hurtigruten Expeditions has announced that it’s strengthening its partnership with the research, conservation and education organization, California Ocean Alliance (COA), to better understand and protect whales and other marine mammals in Antarctica.

A pilot trial was launched in late 2019 but paused due to the pandemic. But as Hurtigruten Expeditions restarts the 2021/2022 Antarctica season, California Ocean Alliance scientists will be part of several Antarctica sailings onboard the MS Roald Amundsen.

According to a press release, the team will collect acoustic data to study ambient noise conditions, the myriad sounds that marine animals make, and the influence of human presence on the soundscape.

The research of how different whales behave near humans will allow Hurtigruten Expeditions – and also other cruise lines – to adapt to ensure they minimize interference with whales.

“Our research will be some of the most challenging we have ever conducted, in one of the most difficult parts of the world. So to have a partner like Hurtigruten Expeditions that supports us is a huge gift to us. With this research, we can create programs that are tailored so guests can have close encounters with whales while ensuring minimal impact on the different whale populations in Antarctica,” said Associate Researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Director of Research for COA, Ari Friedlaender.

Offering small-ship adventures to various fragile destinations on earth, Hurtigruten Expeditions has longstanding partnerships and relationships with science institutions across the world to ensure more sustainable exploration – and contribute to science and research.

“90 percent of the oceans remain unexplored. We are determined to change that by creating a deeper understanding of the areas we explore. The data collected during our research partnership with California Ocean Alliance, and the many others we carry out with other partners, will be used for executive decision making on future environmental issues, so it is a win-win for all of us,” said Hurtigruten Expeditions CEO Asta Lassesen.

Guests always have access to scientists onboard all Hurtigruten Expeditions cruises. All Hurtigruten Expeditions ships feature a science center, overseen by the Chief Scientist, Verena Meraldi.

“Ambient sound research has not been properly conducted in Antarctica before, so we are incredibly enthusiastic about this partnership and that we have the right tools for the scientist to carry out their research by already offering the quietest ships in Antarctica. We hope this will be a long-term partnership that will benefit all parties, but most importantly, the Antarctic whale and wildlife populations,“ said Meraldi.

Hurtigruten Expeditions’ science program includes a wide range of citizen science research projects that guests are encouraged to participate in during their expedition cruise. Project focus depends on the destination, and for Antarctica, it includes surveying the penguin population, studying leopard seals, or research seabird distribution, among many other programs.

The onboard science centers feature museum-style exhibits, and activity areas giving guests hands-on experiences to complement the lecture program.

The team from California Ocean Alliance will work alongside Hurtigruten Expeditions’ onboard expedition teams to provide unique educational opportunities for passengers through lectures, demonstrations, and real-time analysis of scientific data.

As part of the research, the scientists will also collect skin and blubber biopsy samples from whales to evaluate individual animal health, population growth rates, and stress levels.

“Our scientists will also share their findings with the guests onboard, allowing them to partake in real-time science, and during our presentations, they will educate as we go, which will be a truly unique experience“, said Friedlaender.

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