Those who attended the 2016 whale celebration are likely to remember it for a very long time.
A film on this year’s humpback season was shown on a 10 by 12 metre screen and the experience was breathtaking.
The event was held at Crown Beach Resort, and created by Erika Bult, Stan Wolfgramm and the whale team.
The 2016 humpback season was the best season that the Centre for Cetacean Research and Conservation president and director Nan Hauser has experienced in 19 years.
There were 446 humpback sightings in just three-and-a-half months. This is a record and, thanks to the keen eyes of fishermen, locals, tourists, and the very diligent whale team, an accurate count was kept.
This is just the beginning of the work in store for the whale team as they conduct population identity, abundance, photo identification above and below water, acoustics, song analysis, and genetic sampling for DNA analysis, sex and species, blue carbon, stable isotopes, and microbiology.
The team also satellite-tags whales to learn about their annual migration and navigation.
Erika Bult introduced the evening, followed by New Zealand High Commissioner Nick Hurley and Tourism chief executive Halatoa Fua, who gave a moving talk about how watching whales has become a large part of why people come to the Cook Islands.
After dinner – a beautiful buffet by Oceans Restaurant, the film began with a giant wave crash, followed by two minutes of blasting this year’s whale song in the complete darkness.
The whale song transitioned into wonderful shots of humpback whales above and below water. The audience was completely silent as the audio-visual presentation took over their senses.
After the film ended, some members of the audience said they had been brought to tears by the incredible images they saw and the emotions they felt when they viewed the whales.
The large size of the screen allowed for a completely new experience for watching whale imagery.
The film also offered a glimpse into the lives of the whale team themselves, as Nan Hauser narrated part of the film, explaining the daily work of the research team.
When the film ended the whale team took the stage and Nan gave a speech about what whales mean to the Cook Islands. Every team member also introduced themselves and explained how they came to be a part of the team. The evening ended with a beautiful selection of desserts, after which guests took the opportunity to mingle with one another and talk to the whale team. The event allowed for great connections to be made and knowledge of the Cook Islands’ humpback whales to be shared. The whale team is grateful for the event, and especially to Erika Bult for helping to protect the whales year after year. – Nan Hauser