Not your average office job

Observing whales with binoculars from the sightings box on the flying bridge.
Observing whales with binoculars from the sightings box on the flying bridge. (Photo: Paula Olson)
Whale observer in a snowstorm, displaying the sighting number for the latest whale.An observer resting on the bow of the 'Explorer'.

6th March 2013

On dry land at 9 am a normal day in the office would usually see me sitting with a nice fresh cup of coffee in front of the computer screen - not a chance on the blue whales voyage! In the Southern Ocean 9am sees me rugged up on the deck of the Explorer, stretching painfully after two hours on whale sighting duty. I clap my gloved hands to restore circulation. The smell of a missed breakfast wafts from the galley. Moving to the metal ladder, I kick hard and chip off the ice before climbing down the fifteen rungs and gratefully duck inside the ship’s bridge. I welcome the next hour’s work as a data logger in the warm confines of the ship.

We are searching for two Antarctic blue whales that the acousticians have been tracking all night. A gust of freezing air hits me, as the door opens and another sonobouy is launched into the water to get a cross-bearing on our target whale. The radio crackles to life with the observers on the bridge informing; "I have a blow, very high, looks like a blue whale." The ship quickly changes course and the sighting is confirmed.

Immediately the biopsy and photo identification team pulls on layers of warm clothing before moving to the bow. The ship moves slowly through the water, gently sneaking up on the whale to avoid disturbing it. Many hours later, with photos and biopsy samples completed, we retreat back inside. Our tally for Antarctic blue whale photo-identifications is now over 50. Another exciting day at the office – and it’s not even lunchtime!

This page was last modified on August 24, 2015.