Stevenson’s whale research is a big hit
Andrew Stevenson immediately clicks delete when he receives e-mails from businesses asking to help promote his website. He hardly needs any help as www.whalesbermuda.com just had its two millionth hit this week.
Mr Stevenson is the author of numerous books including Whale Song and filmmaker of Where the Whales Sing. The film is narrated by his eldest daughter and talks about their backyard research into whales in Bermuda waters. In the last seven years he has identified over 869 whales around Bermuda, and learned a host of fascinating facts such as that the average whale visit to Bermuda lasts about nine days. He has also started the Bermuda Humpback Whale Research Foundation. The website is a key component of his work.
“I have never done anything to promote the website,” he said. “I had a friend set up the original template, and then the rest of it I have done myself.”
There are usually 50 to 100 people checking out the website at any given time. His whale footage posted on YouTube is also immensely popular.
“The reason for doing it, was to provide an open source of information on what we do,” said Mr Stevenson. “It is for the public, for citizen scientists and for anyone interested.”
He credits the high interest to the thousands of pages of notes he posts every spring during whale season.
“This has given it so many hits,” he said. “There is often new information going up. During the summer the web traffic slows down because I don't add to it.”
He thought not being tied to a web designer also helped because he could post information on the site, as soon as it came through without having to go through a third party.
Meanwhile his film Where the Whales Sing is doing very well on the film festival circuit.
“Our original mandate was purely to make a film for Bermuda school kids,” he said. “It jumped from just being a local film almost immediately.
Someone saw the film and recommended it to the Blue Ocean Film Festival held in Monaco.”
There the unassuming little film won the Best Emerging Underwater Filmmaker award, bringing it to the attention of other film festivals where it won more awards. It has now been dubbed into Italian and subtitled in Korean, Arabic and Spanish, and is frequently the in flight programme on Air Canada.
The large format illustrated companion book Whale Song: Journeys into the Secret Lives of the North Atlantic Humpback Whales has been published in the United Kingdom and the United States and had a first printing of 10,000 copies.
Mr Stevenson said the film and the books are proving to be a tourism draw for Bermuda.
“I get people oversees e-mailing when is the best time to come and how to go whale watching,” he said. “There are all kinds of whaling boats now that you can take a tour on. Whale watching on a good day in Bermuda is better than anywhere else. The problem is you are out on the open ocean. The spring when the whales are passing, can be some of our worst weather.
“We are really discovering new things about humpback whales all the time. There is no one else in the world who is doing this kind of research in the middle of the ocean. It is absolutely unique research.”
For more information see www.whalesbermuda.com .