“Odyssey” Outfitted for Whale Research in Gulf Oil Spill; A Chat With Her Captain Last Month

By Carol McCracken (Post # 536)

Last month, the Odyssey left Portland harbor for a three month expedition in the Gulf of Mexico to collect samples from whales to determine what the impact of the oil spill has had on them. She was docked at Portland Yacht Services for a few days while a rigging problem was fixed. During this time, MHN.com had several opportunitites to meet the leader of the expedition, Dr. John Wise and crew members. MHN.com also had the pleasure of meeting Iain Kerr, the CEO of the non-profit, Ocean Alliance, that owns this floating research lab, Odyssey.

Back in the 1980s, Kerr had the good fortune to meet Roger Payne on a beach in Argentina. Payne, as you may remember, discovered that whales sing songs- he made that discovery about 1969 or 1970 according to Kerr. Payne was looking someone to take a research vessel to the historic Galapagos to study sperm whales. The current 93 ft. ketch was donated by a businessman in Chicago – that’s how this research program on whales began.

Since that time the Odyssey has sailed around the world doing whale research. Recently she completed a journey in which she visited 118 ports in 22 countries for educational purposes. A few years ago Kerr and Wise teamed up to do some whale research which turned out to be a productive enterprise for all involved. This current expedition was a natural follow-up for the two.

This expedition, as of last month, was the only private funded research expedition on whales in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. “We will be providing a much-needed scientific voice to balance the predominantly corporate and governmental sources of information the Gulf oil spill,” said Kerr.

Odyssey is based in Gloucester, MA.

Please see post # 526, dated 7/18 for more background information. Please also visit www.oceanalliance.org for more as well.