Collect whale snot using a remote control helicopter


Scientists want to study whale diseases, but collecting blood is difficult and dangerous to the scientists and the whales. But whale snot is also good for analyzing whale health, and whales shoot it out of their blowholes freely and frequently. The trick is in collecting it.

Dr. Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse of the Zoological Society of London things remote control helicopters are the answer.

Her recent paper in Animal Conservation (abstract), irresistibly entitled "A novel non-invasive tool for disease surveillance of free-ranging whales and its relevance to conservation programs," introduces the ground-breaking methodology of strapping a petri dish to a toy RC helicopter and flying it into the spout.
Collect whale snot using an RC helicopter (Via Make: Online)


  1. Wow, awesomely cool hack.

    -abs is almost always impressed when people use technology in cool and novel ways

  2. The cost of an RC helicopter like the one in the picture most definitely pushes it out of the “toy” category. Now add to the fact that is going to be covered in salt water on regular basis and you are talking real money. It also takes a fair amount of skill to fly an RC helicopter like that, as in many many hours of practice so they will probably be hiring someone to fly it.

  3. I want this job. Maybe just so that I can decide what it would say on my business cards. I’m having trouble deciding between “Unmanned Aerial Cetacean Mucosal Collector Operator” or “Whale Snot Drone Pilot.”

  4. The up side about being a whale snot collector is that you rarely get into bidding wars.

  5. Many years ago, after I graduate from college, I took an extended sea-kayaking trip in British Columbia. We made an ocean crossing one morning in what had to be seven foot swells. Several of us got sea-sick. However, we later relaxed a calm, deep harbor where we expected to see whales.

    Sure enough the whales surfaced, blew, and submerged. Our guide assured us that the whales knew we were there and they’d surface around 20′ away. This went on for half an hour or more and it seemed quite true that they knew where we were. However, a small whale (perhaps an early adolescent in size?) surfaced only five feet from one of our number. It blew. Upwind.

    The poor guy in that kayak couldn’t take it. He lost his breakfast right there.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, if you had a life of diving real deep, eating small disgusting fish, and then holding it in for about 30 minutes or more, your breath would smell pretty bad too. And this whale was no exception. Whale breath STINKS.

    Stay upwind if you can.

    (Calling Mike Rowe, uhhh, I have a dirty job for you…)

  6. Why do scientists want to study whale diseases?

    If they’re so concerned about the wellbeing of the species, I can name one common cause of death which could be adressed to more easily.

    The japanese.

    1. Maybe because that’s what scientists do? Scientists don’t generally spend time enforcing international treaties. Whales sometimes die of things other than Japenese harpoons.

    2. Why do Marcels want to read Boing Boing instead of stopping the Japanese from killing whales?

      1. Yes, you’re right Mark. Thought about it. My comment made no sense whatsoever.

        In fact, it was a crappy thing to do.


  7. That’s why the Japanese [strike]whalers[/strike] scientists are actually very considerate when trying to save the hippies from the terrible whale flu.

  8. You know, just this morning I said to myself: “Self? How on earth are we going to collect whale snot?”

  9. I think this should be turned into some kind of game. Call it, “Ender’s Snot Game” or something.

  10. Wouldn’t it be great to travel back in time and talk to old ’50s SF writers about this?

    “Flying cars and moon colonies? Nah, we don’t have any of that. But we collect whale snot using remote-controlled helicopters!”

  11. Reminds me of something a friend of mine always used to say: “That’s slicker than whale snot on a glass doorknob.”

Comments are closed.