Marine Mammal Science & Conservation

Whale festival 2011


Access to research results should be made available to the general public. We believe that research only makes sense when it is for the benefit of people and nature. Our ongoing goal is to convert complex scientific language into understandable lectures, projects, and exhibitions which provide people with an opportunity to voice their questions, and to lead mutually beneficent discussions with scientists.

Lofoten Whale festival – Henningsvaer 01.-15.08.2011

Here you can view a video from the concert on 5.8.11

A meeting of humans and whales: science, music, art and tourism

A one week gathering celebrating the culture and nature of our cetacean species in the Lofoten waters: pilot whales, killer whales, different dolphins, harbor porpoises, minke whales, fin whales and humpback whales.  There will be talks, special tours with scientists, naturalists, artists and musicians to introduce the wide human ways of relating to these mysterious and fascinating animals.  A group of internationally-known researchers from many different fields will converge upon Henningsvær in early August to present the facts and mysteries we have discovered about these important ocean creatures. National and International renowned artists will present their work and interact with the whales, people and nature of Lofoten.

The goal was to raise awareness, educate people about the marine ecosystem and its wonderful creatures, embedded in artistic and fun activities!


1)     Sailing trips to find the whales and play music for them, film interactions, do research

2)     Talks, films, presentations about whales and the marine ecosystem at the Ocean Sounds Center

3)     Concerts: downstairs at the Ocean Sounds center (or at local coffee shop)

4)     Discussion rounds & party

5)     …open for your own action…

To celebrate the importance of the cetaceans in arctic Norwegian waters, to educate children and people and to enhance the experience of visitors to Henningsvær and to boost the local tourist economy.

Donations are very welcome!!

Whale-festival in Henningsvaer
The fascination of animals that are mysterious to us has always attracted our minds. Whales are creatures that because of their, for us remote aquatic life, have always been “food” for stories of monsters and secret lands. Throughout history people have been scared, or delighted by the sight of such sea “monsters”, there are both stories of hunting to extinctions out of pure greed and stories about cooperative and even life saving moments with dolphins and whales. During the last century people managed to almost erase all whales and dolphins form our planet, but in the last minute it was stopped due to a greater respect for those creatures of the sea. Instead non lethal whale watching developed all over the world with great success. People started to love and admire those animals. Likewise in science whales and dolphins have become a fast field of studies from genetics to behavior or medicine, we started to learn a lot about those mysterious animals.
However, we still have to learn a lot and not even half of their biology is known to us.

In Henningsvaer on the Lofoten islands, 68 degrees north, is where both whales and fishermen live. Here is where we want to celebrate life in the sea in coexistence with people.

Because it is unique, fascinating and beautiful!
All year round different species of whales visit the water around the Lofoten islands. During the summer months you find most species in the Vestfjord, from the local small harbor porpoises, to different dolphins (Atlantic white sided and beaked dolphins), smaller baleen whales such as minke whales (9m) to larger ones like the humpback whale (14m) and the second largest whale in the world, the fin whale (24m). However, some highly social whales come in family groups as well, the matrilineal killer whales and long-finned pilot whales. Especially pilot whales are regular visitors and may stay for a week. Often they are curious about the boat and come very close, sometimes they allow us to stay for a longer time, or they just inspect us, may whistle to us and then leave again. You never know with these whales!
Musician and Philosopher David Rothenberg has interacted with music and different kind of whales all over the world. He will come to Henningsvaer and will try to play his clarinet to the pilot whales (and other whales) to document their reaction in form of vocal interactions, behavior in air and movement. We will document this interaction with audio recordings and filming as well as pictures and GPS locations.

People participating and visiting the festival can witness this and get an introduction to our research either out at sea or in form of lectures, slide shows, films and discussions at the center. Our goal is to create a bridge between the fascinating world of the whales and people. We want to show the beauty of the whales’ lives, their appearance, behavior, sounds and communication with their environment. At the same time, we want to give art and science a platform to interact and underline the importance of life in the sea for us. To round it up, we want to give everybody the possibility to express themselves and discuss their opinion.

Background: The idea for this whale festival developed under a meeting and participation at the 3 week art and ecology exhibition “Gentle Action” in Oslo at Kunstnerens Hus, 25.10-14.11.2010.

Program 30.7-14.8.2011:

30.7-2.8.2011 scientific part: sailing to find whales, record them, do playback studies.
Main Participants: David Rothenberg (NJIT), Lasse-Marc Riek (Gruenrekorder), Marc Timme (MPI), Jan Nagler (MPI), Jarle Nordeide (UiN), Heike Vester (Ocean Sounds / MPI), Rauno Lauhakangas (CERN)

3-6.8.2011 TALKS & MUSIC:

3.8.2011 opening in the afternoon (17 o clock): welcoming talk by Heike Vester, David Rothenberg, Lasse-Marc Riek, Rauno Lauhakangas and Tuula  Nikulainen

30min Ocean Sounds slide show about the different whale species in Henningsvaer

Afterwards: music with David and others in the center of Ocean Sounds

4.8.2011 whale & marine bio-acoustic research:

16:00 – Prof. D. Rothenberg (NJIT) and R. Lauhakangas (CERN) will tell you something about your field work in Russia (and other places) with some good and funny examples on how difficult it can get…

16:45 – talk by H.Vester about communication in matrilineal whales – killer and pilot whales

17:30 – talk by Prof. M. Timme (MPI): Data analysis – searching new methods for  whale-sound-analysis

18:00 – talk by Dr. J. Nagler (MPI): another approach of whale sound data analysis

18:30 – talk by Prof. J. T. Nordeide (UiN): Sex and sound of cod off Henningsvaer

20:00 concert/music (David and others…) on the peer in front of Bryggehotel (weather permitting)

5.8.2011 human activities & whales:

16:00 opening with a representative from the WWF Norway – talk about whaling in northern countries (not confirmed yet)

16:45 Daniel Opitz film about whaling

18:15 history and whale stories: Tuula, Hanni, Rauno…

19:00 film: e.g. “The cove” or “end of the line”

21:00 open for performances of guests!! On the peer in front of Bryggehotel (weather permitting)

6.8.2011 panel discussion:

16:00 music with whales: David Rothenberg will say something about his work and experiences and show a French documentary about his work in Hawaii with Humpback whales.

Open end live performance:

Lasse-Marc Riek: soundscapes with orcas and pilot whales calls

Maybe a play with the local music club in the streets of Henningsvaer…

7.-14.8.2011 sound analysis workshop (details via handout)

daily: 9:00-17:00: invited participants: David Rothenberg, Jan Nagler and Lasse Marc Riek (lunch break 12:00, plus coffee breaks in between)

14.8.2011 at 17:00 Heike Vester will round up the festivals’ activities and discuss further plans for the future

The program is open for changes!

Main Participants:

Heike Vester

Biologist & Founder of Ocean Sounds (

Heike Vester, a biologist (Masters of Biology in Arctic Biology from the University of Tromsoe, Norway) is specialized in bio-acoustics, animal behavior & communication and animal physiology. She lives in Henningsvaer since 2004 and founded Ocean Sounds in 2005. Currently she works on a PhD in cooperation with the Cognitive Ethology Group at the German Primate Center, University of Goettingen, Germany and the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, in Goettingen, Germany.

Her intention is to organize and participate in the whale festival in order to educate the world about the whales of Lofoten, educate them about the biology and communication, and bring people from different disciplines together. By opening up the science world and combine it with art, the message may reach a lot of different people, especially children. She wants to demonstrate what beautiful nature, especially the life in the sea, the local people of Lofoten have. And, thereby creating an awareness that will foster future protection and pride for their natural environment and animals at sea and the peoples’ way of living.

The plan is to organize:
a) talks, discussion rounds and films in the science center of Ocean Sounds
b) boat excursions to find the whales and supervise/record/study the interaction between David Rothenbergs’ music and the whales’ reaction.

This event will also be a starting point for a documentary film of long finned pilot whales and humans.

David Rothenberg musician, philosopher, writer, naturalist

David Rothenberg first came to Norway in the 1980s to work with philosopher Arne Naess.  He later translated Naess’s Ecology, Community and Lifestyle into English and wrote a conversational biography of Naess, Is It Painful to Think?, which was a best-seller in Norway in 1992.

Combining his training with Naess and his work as a musician, Rothenberg has written several book on music in nature, including Why Birds Sing, which has been published in seven languages, and Thousand Mile Song, about the music of whales and his experience playing his clarinet along with them.  This latter book is currently being turned into three documentary films.

Rothenberg is Professor of Philosophy and Music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and his latest recording One Dark Night I Left My Silent House was released on the ECM label, home of Jan Garbarek, Tord Gustavsen, and many other Norwegian musicians, in 2010.

In the summer of 2011 Rothenberg hopes to bring his music and his ideas about the sound world of whales to Henningsvær in Lofoten for a series of boat trips, first to interact live with pilot whales and their sounds (something never before documented in Norway), and then with visitors to the festival to listen to and to show how whale sounds are scientifically analyzed, and then with one or two concerts, performed solo or with local musicians, combining the sounds of the sea with Rothenberg’s style of jazz improvisation, very influenced by the years he spent in Norway and the fine musicians of this country.

The aim of these series of events will be to increase general appreciation for the beauty and presence of whales as part of the ecology of the Lofoten Islands and Northern Norway as a whole.


The whale activism of Rauno Lauhakangas started in Norway, Lofoten in 1990. The basic idea was presented by his 8-year old son: “The best whale conservation is whale watching”. Since those days Lauhakangas has founded several whale watching companies in Europe, co-operating in Caribbean, and even in Japan.

While working at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) he was in close collaboration with the WWW research unit, and he decided to build and submit to the WWW Virtual Library a website about whale watching carrying the
For the last 10 years he has studied in particular the migration of white whales in the White Sea and Northern Norway. This work has been done together with Russian scientists.  In the summer of 2011 Lauhakangas will tell stories about human and whale encounters in Fennoscandia and North-West Russia after the glacial period. He will also perform with a demonstrational device how whales communicate by using holozonic underwater images. The device is based on sounds and a laser beam.

Tuula  Nikulainen
is a visual artist and environmental activist working in the field of art and ecology. Tuula’s background is in folkloristics,  northern shamanism and nomads. She has studied nomad technologies, such as yurt making, and stayed with nomads in Mongolia teaching their forgotten arts and crafts, felt-boot-making. Tuula is also the founder of the community art and ecology projects Sunny Future and Halikonlahti Green Art in southern Finland. Tuula has been enchanted by whales ever since her oldest daughter Saana started her “studies” in marine mammals at a very early age about twenty years ago…
Tuula will bring a yurt to the whalefestival, and whale stories originally learnt from the Maori people of New Zealand.

More about

Lasse-Marc Riek
uses different forms of expression in his producing. His works are interdisciplinary and can be conceived as groups of works of both visual art (action and conceptual art) and sound art. His art of sound can be described in terms such as acoustic ecology, bio acoustics and soundscapes. Here, Riek uses acoustic field recordings, storing them with different recording media, editing, archiving and presenting them in different contexts.
Since 1997, he has operated internationally with exhibitions, releases, concerts, lectures, workshops, awards, projects and given guest performances in galleries, art museums, churches and universities. Contributions in public media as well as in podcasts. Scholarships and artist-in-residence programs realised in Europe and Africa. Since 2003 founder member of the audio publishing company Gruenrekorder, focusing on soundscapes, field recordings and electro-acoustic compositions, and in this connection, acting internationally with artists and scientists.


Lasse-Marc Riek will perform a Soundscape out of orca and pilot whale signals recorded by Heike Vester. He runs the label Gruenrekorder and  released among more than 80 releases the first CD of ocean-sounds. During the whole festival Riek will record the activities to prepare future projects like a audio work on CD  and radio work, too.
A CD will be published via Gruenrekorder in 2014!

Co-operation partner Gruenrekorder, Germany
Gruenrekorder understands itself as an organisation with the aim of promoting experimental music and phonography. Phonography considers nature / the environment as an acoustic experience, loaded with musical sounds. It is as a form of art and culture, that Gruenrekorder promotes phonography. We therefore organise events, lectures, publications and exhibitions as well as artistic projects in the fields of phonography and experimental music.

Supported ( in part) by Goethe Institut, Oslo, Norway