Tail of a whale diving back into the ocean

Silent whale watching is being powered by electric boats.

September 01 2021

Whales can spend around 90 minutes underwater before they come up to get some air. This practice allows us to catch a glimpse of them on the surface, making one of the most stunning experiences you can have at sea.

Whale watching tours have become a popular activity, as they allow us to have a unique perspective and enjoy the show with minimum disturbance to whales while they are in their natural habitat.



Traditionally, whale tour boats have used combustion engines. Fuel burning or carbon dioxide are some of the negative effects of using this type of engine. Not only that, but the noise produced has been reported to be harmful for cetaceans, as they enjoy calm and quiet waters.

Carbon neutral whale tours are being offered in Iceland by North Sailing, a tour company that decided to invest in converting one of their sailing boats, changing the previous diesel backup engine for an electric one. Iceland is powered mostly by hydro and geothermal energy, so the electric engines are charged from 100% renewable sources. With this, they achieved a silent ride, where no loud talking takes place between passengers and crew. In fact, because of the water being silent, whales are less stressed to come closer and extend their stay. You can actually hear the whales when they breathe, making it a much more authentic experience.



When it comes to whale watching, Iceland is one of the best places on Earth. More than 20 species of whales can be found, and out of those, 8 species can be seen regularly during their well known whale watching tours.

Around Iceland, currents coming from hot waters and the ones coming from arctic cold waters collide. Combine that with relatively shallow waters and the result is the perfect habitat for whales to visit the area to find food.

This bountiful supply of plankton and fish is particularly prolific in a town named Húsavík, along the east shore of Skjalfandi Bay. Húsavík has become the Whale Watching Capital of Europe. Because of their rich feeding ground, there is an incredibly high success rate for finding whales. It’s not uncommon to find whales only 20 minutes after leaving the harbor. Species such as the Minke whale, the Humpback whale or the biggest mammal on Earth, the Blue whale, can be seen regularly.



Interest in whale watching has increased over time, with an average of 300,000 people arriving at Húsavík per year just to see the whales. Thanks to electric boating, not only have the tours become more eco-friendly, but also whaling activity has decreased in those areas.

Whale watching is a unique opportunity to approach whales in their natural habitat. If you haven’t had the opportunity yet, make sure to add a silent whale watching tour to your bucket list. Not only will you have the chance to see many species of whales, but you will also enjoy the view of fantastic wildlife and natural scenery.



Sources

The Guardian - "It's oh so quiet: Silent whale watching on Iceland's first electric boat tour", The Guardian website, https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2021/may/12/husavik-iceland-silent-whale-watching-electric-boat-trip, 21/05/2021.

Iceland Travel - "Environmental Friendly Whale Watching Tour from Husavik", Iceland Travel website, https://www.icelandtravel.is/tours/silent-whale-whale-watching-carbon-neutral/, visited 30/08/2021.

The Rainforest Site - "Iceland Launches Quiet Electric Boats For Whale Watching, The Rainforest news site, https://blog.therainforestsite.greatergood.com/iceland-electric-boat-tour-whale-watch/, visited 01/09/2021.

The Guardian - "Silence Is Golden For Whales As Lockdown Reduces Ocean Noise", The Guardian website, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/27/silence-is-golden-for-whales-as-lockdown-reduces-ocean-noise-coronavirus, 27/04/2020.


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