History & Construction Of the First WhaleSong
The Enderby Island research station in the Dampier Archipelago was a great place, but we were tied to the land while our study animals moved freely along the coast. We decided, during our 1992 trip to the Monte Bello Islands that we should be mobile and able to migrate with the whales. Mostly we needed to find where they were calving. The southbound calves observed near the Dampier Archipelago were aged between 4-5 weeks old. It was evident we should be looking further north to find the calving ground, however, the Kimberley was, and still is, a remote vast frontier where everything is huge – stations, distances, tides, currents, not to mention the cost of living!
With the help and friendship of John and Lynn Lally at the Pilbara Camp School in Dampier, we were able to build WhaleSong over a period of two years and three months (actually 17 months of construction). After lots of very hard work, WhaleSong was launched on July 22, 1995. The launch began a significant phase in our lives and research because we were finally completely mobile and independent, just like our study animals.
WhaleSong is a modified 13.25 metre Simpson design sailing catamaran, The hulls are cedar strip plank, sandwiched between biaxial fiberglass impregnated with System 3 epoxy resin. The cabin top, bridgedeck and bulkheads are laminated marine plywood.
WhaleSong, as a work boat, was comfortable and strong but not luxurious, accommodating 10 persons, carrying 450 litres of water (plus watermaker) and 560 litres of fuel. WhaleSong is equipped with a 3.5m Zodiac tender, Sousa, and we also operated a 6m (21ft) Zodiac RIB as a separate research boat (Mega). Megahad twin 40hp Yamaha motors and was an excellent offshore work vessel in which we logged over 10,000 nautical miles – mostly in the Perth Canyon..
During the winter of 2001 we did some extensive renovations on WhaleSong involving adding 1.5m to each hull in the stern region. The original transom hung rudders were replaced with more efficient kick-up spade rudders. Railings were added to the stern deck and twin 40 hp Volvo Penta diesel sail drive motors installed. The hulls and bridgedeck were re-painted as well. The interior received a re-vamp as well with the head and kids cabin getting a complete make-over. As a result, WhaleSong was a faster, more comfortable and a more capable work platform.
By 2006 we had sailed over 30,000 nautical miles in our excellent purpose-built research base/home!
History & Construction Of WhaleSong II
WhaleSong II started life as a tuna longliner operating out of Fremantle, Western Australia. She was one of the top catching vessels in the fleet and was well maintained and used by Vinci Seafoods and Captain Paul Copeland.
We saw her huge fuel carrying capacity and good sea keeping qualities combined with state of the art electronics as a perfect fit in our own evolution to deep water research. WhaleSong II has a cruising range of 4000 nautical miles and bristles with aerials for links to seas surface temperature satellites, communication satellites and tracking beacons amongst others.
Of course there was a need for adapting this fishing vessel into a live aboard research vessel. After discussing our needs with several builders and designers, we pulled the then Genesis out of the water at North Port Boat Lifters in Fremantle and let Dave Matheson’s highly skilled team begin the 5 month transformation. Special thanks go to Donny Woods, Shane Hornsey , Bart Kok , and Jeremy Franklin.
Many suppliers were keen to help us with the transformation, and people like John Nicolopoulos at Saint Gobain (fiberglass products), Rob Flintoff at AMI (hardware), Keith Morgan at Morgan Timbers, Entin Shah at AFPT (foam products), Rob Lynn at Wiltrading ,Peter Meegan at Autoblast, Charlie Tranchita at Fremantle Hydraulics, Jaime Oreb at Hamilton Engineering, Colin Clarke at Arrow Electrics and Trevor Richards at Yacht Grot, were willing and able partners. These men and their companies supplied their time, materials and expertise to our project and really made this boat a reality. Many thanks!