Question Sheet: Whale Watch


Before reading:

  1. Why are many whale populations in trouble or extinct?
  2. Where’s a good spot to look for whales?

During reading:

  1. When was whaling officially banned? Why?
  2. Why does Roger Payne describe the ocean as a “giant conveyer belt”?
  3. What is “acoustic smog” and why is it a problem for whales?
  4. What is a whale fall, and how is it important to a blind zombie worm?
  5. Describe how whales communicate. See

    (National Geographic).

  6. Why do scientists need a lot of technology to study whales or, as Palumbi says, push back “the curtain of the ocean?”

After reading:

  1. This article begins by noting that whales naturally fascinate people. Why do you think that is the case?
  2. If you were an activist interested in protecting whales, name three things you could do to try to help save whales? See (Save the Whales) or Cetacean Society).
  3. Why is studying dead whales important to saving the lives of other living animals as well as whales?
  4. Why are minke whales in less danger than other whale species? See (OceanLink).
  5. What changes in technology might help whales in the future?


  1. Why do Japan and Norway want to reinstate whaling? Use the Internet or books to investigate the history of whaling by those two countries. See (Japan Whaling Association),, and (Nordic Notes).
  2. Why do you think that Cape Cod Bay in Massachusetts is a particularly noisy area for whales? See (Cornell University).


  1. Suppose that you’re a marine biologist studying whales and that you keep a diary. What sorts of entries would you write? Give some examples.
  2. One of the most famous novels about whales and whaling is Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Find another story or novel in which a whale plays an important role. For some examples, see (Wappingers Central School District). Write a short review of the book or story.


A whale swims at a speed of about 1.5 meters per second while feeding. Its mouth opening is 1.5 square meters in size. Right whales feed where plankton densities are 4,000 to 15,000 organisms per cubic meter.

  1. How many cubic meters of water enter the open mouth of the whale each minute as it moves through the water at 1.5 meters per second?
  2. How many plankton can a whale ingest per second if the density of these

    organisms is 4,000 per cubic meter?