whale questions

From: Erich Hoyt (EHoyt@compuserve.com)
Date: Sun Oct 20 2002 - 18:48:54 EDT

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    Message text written by Sue Shirley

    The following questions are from half of my fifth grade (10-11 year olds)
    science class. Thank you in advance for answering them.

    from Audrey, Casey and Kaleigh: What kind of whales are there in Scotland?
    What do you do with blind whales that you find? What would you want to be
    if you weren't a whale researcher? What has been your favorite whale
    related project?

    from Katie and Roxana: How do you know so much about whales? When did you
    decide to become a whale researcher?

    from Josh and Davis: What type of fish is on the cover of "Creatures of
    the Deep"? If you can would you please send us some pictures of the fish?

    from Ian and Will: What is your favorite instrument for testing whales and
    how does it work? What kind of work do you do with the Russian and
    Japanese scientists?

    from Alanna and Kristina: What is your favorite type of whale and why? Why
    do the Japanese still hunt whales?

    from Patrick: What was your most successful book? Do you take the pictures
    for your books?

    Many thanks,
    Sue Shirley
    Dedham Country Day School
    Dedham, Massachusetts
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    Thank you very much for your interest in whales and the sea. I'll try to
    answer your questions.

    Dear Audrey, Casey and Kaleigh:
    - We have mainly minke whales in Scotland, plus a few killer whales or
    - I've never found any blind whales, but whales with poor or even no vision
    might well do OK, at least some species that we know use sonar and
    echolocation to find their food and navigate.
    - I also work as a writer and if I didn't do any work with whales and
    dolphins, I would write more books about all kinds of things - whatever I'm
    curious about. That's the way I learn about things. Besides whales, I've
    also written about ants and other insects, about plants and the deep sea.
    - My favourite whale work was my time with orcas when people were just
    starting to learn about them 30 years ago. In the last 3 or 4 years I've
    returned to orca work again, collaborating with Japanese and Russian
    researchers to work in far east russia where orcas have never been studied
    before. That's exciting.

    Dear Katie and Roxana:
    - I've just learned about whales as I went along, by spending a lot of time
    with them in the sea, by reading about them and talking to lots of other
    researchers. I first got interested in whale research when I got involved
    in a film project to work with orcas 30 years ago in British Columbia. But
    before that I knew almost nothing about any whales, had never seen them or
    read about them.

    Dear Josh and Davis:
    - The fish on the cover of my book Creatures of the Deep is a deep sea
    angler fish. You are welcome to print out a copy of the cover. If you
    can't, I can send it to your teacher by an attachment. There are some other
    pictures of this fish inside the book, too. Some sample spreads with photos
    are available through this website: www.fireflybooks.com/Nature/HOYT.html

    Hi Ian and Will:
    - I'm not sure what you mean by "testing whales". Most of the work we do is
    photographing whales to get identifying marks on their dorsal or top fins
    and their backs. Then we can use these marks to identify the individuals.
    We have names and numbers for most of the whales. Then we record their
    sounds and note which whales travel with each other. Following them year
    after year, we start to get an idea of the families, how long the whales
    lives, how many calves they have, and many other things about their
    behavior and biology.

    Dear Alanna and Kristina,
    - My favorite whale is the orca, but close seconds are humpback whales and
    right whales. However all whales and dolphins are interesting in their own
    right and different from all the others.
    - Whaling has all but died out in Japan. Young people are not interested in
    eating whales or killing them and in fact whale watching is very popular
    now in Japan, with more than 25 villages and towns offering whale watch
    tours and more than 100,000 Japanese going whale and dolphin watching every
    year. But the Japanese government keeps whaling alive because there are a
    few ships and towns that continue with it as a business, even though very
    few people in Japan eat whale meat regularly. Whaling has a long history in
    Japan, as it does in many western countries including the United States. In
    fact the Americans helped bring modern whaling to Japan and after World War
    II encouraged the Japanese to restart their whaling and use whale meat for
    cheap protein in school lunches.

    Hi Patrick,
    - It's difficult to say what is my most successful book. Orca: The Whale
    Called Killer was published 21 years ago and it still is in print and still
    selling a few copies as new people discover the magic of orcas. It was also
    translated into Japanese a few years ago so Japanese people are now reading
    it. One of my other whale books was translated into 12 languages and
    published in about 20 countries. In terms of an advance from the publisher,
    my book The Earth Dwellers which is about leafcutter ants in the rainforest
    did the best, and it too has been translated into Japanese and the film
    rights were bought by a film company although it still hasn't been made
    into a film. One day, perhaps.
    - I take a few of the photographs for some of my books, but mainly I am a
    writer, researcher and conservationist.

    Good luck to all of you and thanks for your interest in whales and the sea,
    and in my work. For more on the above and to follow the orca work in Russia
    check out these websites:

    www.russianorca.narod.ru [we'll be adding more to this site in a week or

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    Erich Hoyt
    The Gannetry
    29A Dirleton Avenue
    North Berwick, Scotland
    U.K. EH39 4BE

    Senior research associate, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society
    Co-director, Far East Russia Orca Project

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