A Rare Black Eye for Whalewatching

Feature photo credit: Whale Watching via photopin (license)

Far too often, it takes a negative event to bring certain subject to light. This week, it was the $2+ billion-dollar whale-watching industry taking the hit of public scrutiny.

A Canadian whale-watching ship known as the Leviathan II unfortunately capsized off the coast of Vancouver Island last Sunday, killing five British nationals onboard for vacation. Although a sad day for the United Kingdom and whale watching at large, incidents involving serious injury or death during a whale-watching expedition are extremely rare.

The Leviathan II was properly certified by Transport Canada, the Canadian maritime authority, and was a 65-foot, single hull vessel designed specifically for whale watching adventures. Many times, whale-watching vessels contain a two-hull system, in order to stay afloat easier during the inevitable rocking from side to side that occurs when people onboard are racing to snap pictures and videos of the large marine animals. Although only a single hull system, it is not believed the action of the passengers is what doomed The Leviathan II. In fact, unless modified since approval, The Leviathan II’s certification with Transport Canada indicates it passed test inspections for stability during passenger movement.

Rather, it is suspected there was a malfunction in the vessel’s engine room alert system.

A ship of The Leviathan II’s size would not normally employ a bottom deck Engineer to ensure engine room safety and security. Instead, a blinking light indication system in the captain’s quarters would do the same job. It is this safety system that was believed to be faulty, leading to the allowance of water to flood the engine room, and sinking the Leviathan II. The weather during the incident was ideal, so it is not believed to contribute to the sinking of The Leviathan II. In a statement, Massachusetts Maritime Academy professor Joseph Murphy believed the event must have been a fast one, trapping and ultimately dooming the passengers inside the ship’s hull.

“It’s likely that once the whale-watching boat began filling with water, panicked passengers may have rushed to retrieve life jackets, which may have been stored on racks inside the main cabin. Depending on how fast the boat was capsizing, those passengers may have gotten trapped inside as the cabin filled with frigid ocean water,” he said.

No matter the cause, the sinking of The Leviathan II and subsequent loss of life is a rare black mark on the whale watching industry. It will take some time for Transport Canada to investigate and release its finding as to the exact cause. Until that time, speculation and wild accusations could be pandemic, because of the rarity of the event.

If you wish to commemorate those who passed during this rare tragedy in your own way, EcoSmart Designs’ Sea Life line of designer metal jewelry has exactly what you need. Remember the five with handmade sperm whale, beluga whale, humpback, and other whale designs cast in eco-friendly SafePewterTM brand metal. All EcoSmart Designs jewelry is 100% handmade in the USA.

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