The competition results were tallied last December, but it was decided to split the ceremony to announce the winners and present the awards into two parts. One ceremony took place in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in late December and was attended by kids from the southern parts of the island. The second ceremony took place on February 8, and was for the children from the village of Nekrasovka, in the Okha district, who would may have found it difficult to travel to the island's capital. After the second ceremony, all of the awards are united with their owners, and the children were presented with mementoes, diplomas, and copies of pages from the photo ID catalog where each animal has officially received its new name. A total of 58 children won awards and prizes with 12 winners from Nekrasovka.
The Sakhalin offshore areas are rich in the gray whales' favorite food – small crustaceans and other seabed fauna. Each year these animals swim to their feeding areas here, and each year the researchers studying them notice new whales – both adults and calves. The photo ID catalog contains photos identifying each whale and helps the researchers distinguish one animal from another among the stream of visitors.
Exxon Neftegas, the Sakhalin-1 project operator, sponsored the Name a Whale competition by providing not only funding, but also organizational help. This is the result of decades of cooperation between the Sakhalin-1 project and marine biologists where all parties work together to minimize the impact of offshore operations on all marine fauna, including whales.
Throughout last year, Sakhalin schools shared special lessons on the environment, staged project presentations, and arranged for marine mammal experts to tell the children about these marine wanderers who hold the record when it comes to migration route length. During these special classroom events, children invented names for the whales, drew pictures of them, and wrote brief essays to explain why the name they had thought up suited this unique animal.
Altogether the competition received around 420 entries, including 96 essays. The children showed such a creative approach to the competition that the organizers decided not to limit themselves to simply selecting the best names, but picked the best entries. The choice was not an easy one, particularly when it came to the kids from Nekrasovka, who invented some unique names in the category of Gray Whale Name in the Languages of the Ethnic Minorities of the North. One of these names, for example, was Manglaken which was thought up by Regina Markina. In the Nivkh language it means The Precious Whale.
The photo ID catalog is regularly updated and reissued. In the new edition, the new whales will already have their own names with a special note to say who came up with it. So the Name a Whale competition was not just about giving new names to whales, but about the children's names being recorded in a serious scientific publication. And who knows? Maybe for some children this will be their first step along the path of a great science career.