Australia-New Zealand Antarctic whale expedition 2010

The grey and white fluke of a whale
The fluke of a whale (Photo: Dave Donnelly)

The Australian Government, in cooperation with New Zealand, has supported the Antarctic whale expedition to conduct non-lethal research into large whales in the Ross Sea area and the adjacent Southern Ocean.

The expedition left Wellington, New Zealand on 1 February and returned on 15 March 2010, after spending six weeks conducting non-lethal whale research aboard the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) vessel RV Tangaroa. Updates from the voyage have been posted and a preliminary expedition report [PDF] is now available and the final version of the report of the Antarctic whale expedition 2010 [PDF] is also available.

This was the first major voyage of the Southern Ocean Research Partnership (SORP), a five-year multi-national collaboration on whale research in the Southern Ocean. SORP's aim is to develop a multi-lateral, non-lethal scientific research program that will improve the coordinated and cooperative delivery of science to the International Whaling Commission.

Antarctic whale expedition aims

  • To understand feeding behaviour of Southern Ocean whales (particularly humpback, Antarctic minke and blue), including interactions with pack-ice, krill and their environment
  • To understand population movement patterns of Southern Ocean whales on feeding grounds, and linkages to their northern breeding ground


The research on the expedition contributed toward improving our understanding of the population structure, abundance, trends, distribution and ecological role of whales in the Southern Ocean. Scientists onboard used state-of-the-art non-lethal research techniques such as biopsy sampling, satellite tagging, and acoustic and hydrographic surveys, focusing particularly on humpback, minke, blue and fin whales.

The researchers and expedition support crew collectively have vast experience working and researching in polar regions.

Watch lead scientist Nick Gales speaking about the expedition before its departure.

Collaborative individual photo-identification of Antarctic humpback whales

A catalogue of 61 individual humpback whale fluke photographs were collected during the recent Australia – New Zealand Antarctic whale expedition between 150°E and 150°W. In addition, two fluke photographs were collected in 2010 by the French programme CETA IPEV 1014 off east Antarctica. We welcome other catalogue holders to match these photographs with their own images.

This page was last modified on August 25, 2015.