Much of the ocean remains a vast mystery to us land-dwellers, however, advancements in research and aquatic observation are pushing us towards a greater understanding of marine creatures and their environments.
One of these budding areas of study is the way in which noise pollution impacts life beneath the sea. 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.
Fortunately, a new silent boat designed especially for whale watching has hit the water in Húsavík, Iceland. The boat, dubbed Opal, was conceptualized by 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, relying on 100 percent 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 appearance on occasion. The silent engines on the boat make it more likely for the whales to linger around, letting curiosity get the better of them, uninhibited by the stressful sounds of loud engines.
North Sailing has offered blueprints of their carbon-neutral vessels to other whale-watching companies with the hope that their competitors will choose to prioritize the whales and the environment.