The Earthwatch research takes place at Kaikoura. Kaikoura is a fishing village situated on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island at about 42° south latitude. To the west the Kaikoura mountains dominate the horizon. To the east stretches the Pacific Ocean. About one mile off the rocky shore, the ocean floor drops over 6,000 feet to the bottom of the underwater Kaikoura canyon, home of the giant squid.
In the traditional language of the native Maori people, kai means "food" and koura means "krill" (a kind of shrimp). The deep underwater trenches of the canyon have always provided a plentiful food source for diverse marine life. At the top of the food chain are the whales, ranging in size from the largest of all, the blue whale, to sperm whales and orcas. Recently, Kaikoura has become a busy tourist destination, with most of the tourism centering around whale watching and swim-with-dolphin programs.