North Atlantic Right Whale: Designing a 1/8 Scale Model

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Project Type: 

Students Involved:

Heather McRae UNH - Department of Biological Sciences
Diana Lewis UNH - Department of Mechanical Engineering
Rachel McMicken University of New Hampshire

Faculty Advisors:

Kenneth Baldwin UNH - Department of Mechanical Engineering

This construction of the 1/8th scale model of a North Atlantic right whale is the first known scale model made to simulate entanglement. This scale model is now a resource and tool for scientists, government, legislation and education. The construction of the scale model helps to provide information on the building of such scale items. The scale model provides an opportunity to gather qualitative data for enhancing the understanding of the entanglement of marine mammals. It was shown that a scaled model of a North Atlantic right whale can be built and survive submersion in water for over a period of eight hours.

Although some materials should not be used in future model construction, the overall design mimics shape, size and characteristics. It was estimated that the scale model would require approximately 300 lbs as weight, however it took 296 lbs to make the scale model neutrally buoyant. Initial runs yielded problem areas of the model, namely the pipe and the way in which it is fastened inside the whale. However, initial runs also found that the scaled gear line ripped through the scale model which was traveling at two knots (0.25 m/s), which is half the typical traveling speed of a right whale. It was found that this model is a prototype for future models that will aid in the knowledge of entanglement, particularly insight into how it occurs.


Available from the National Sea Grant Library (use NHU number to search) or NH Sea Grant


  • North Atlantic right whale: Designing a 1/8 scale model (2005). Heather McRae, Diana Lewis and Rachel McMicken. Advisor: Kenneth Baldwin.