Whale Research in Antarctica

Why we need to understand the health and growth of whales in Antarctica

Whale research teams have been travelling to Antarctica to understand the health and growth of whales by using UAS to gather pertinent information.  Learning the behavior of humpback whales and minke whales is critical to the understanding of whales and their habitats to ensure we they are protected in years to come.

A scientific team from Oregon State University, the Australian Antarctic Division, Stanford University, Duke University, and the University of California Santa Cruz travelled with One Ocean Expeditions to Antarctica in February and March 2017.

The drone footage the researchers captured during this time of minke whales and humpback whales is crucial in measuring their length and girth.  This information, when combined with measurements taken from different times of the year, will allow scientists to understand the health and growth of these whales.

In addition, the scientists deployed a number of multi-sensor video recording-tags to see from a whales’ perspective how they navigate and behave in the icy Antarctic waters during their migration in search of krill, their main food source.

“With the help of One Ocean Expeditions, this year was our most successful to date!  We are learning more and more about the behavior of individual whales, how large they are, how they grow, where they roam, and what they need to be successful in a changing Antarctic environment”, explains Dr. Ari Friedlaender the scientific progress.

These results are important to protect Antarctic whales in their natural environment as the Antarctic Peninsula is changing rapidly. As a result of global warming, it is warming up faster than almost any other area on the planet. Through the warming of the sea ice; krill populations are threatened as these krill rely on sea ice to grow and survive. As sea ice melts and recede, the amount of habitat for krill shrinks as a result. Antarctic humpback whales and minke whales rely on krill which is essential to their survival. The whale’s migratory feeding pattern takes them to the Antarctic Peninsula annually to forage on the rich amount of krill which can be found in these waters.

Equally of concern, there is a growing krill fishing/harvesting industry which is moving into the oceans which are critical for whales to be able to forage and feed. “The more information we can learn about the whales and where they go, the better we can inform governments and political organizations to better protect and preserve this unique wilderness for all of the animals that rely on the Antarctic to survive”, explains Dr. Ari Friedlaender of the whale research project.

Drone Permit #: ACA Permit 2016-024, 2017-034
Supported by WWF Australia, Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University and the Australian Antarctic Division – Marine Mammal Centre.

For a decade, One Ocean Expeditions is successfully supporting internationally renowned research organizations in the Polar Regions.