Blue whale ballet
During our research voyage, we have been entertained and captivated by the remarkable behaviour of the Antarctic blue whales and their Olympic performances of strength. While we were watching the sunset, four Antarctic blue whales approached the ship. To our amazement one repeatedly "spy hopped." This athletic feat involves standing on your tail with your head vertically out of the water; quite an achievement given that Antarctic blue whales grow up to 30 metres in length and 100 tonnes in weight.
While close to the ship and with the help of a 400 mm camera lens it’s impressive to see that the plumbing of the blowhole of the Antarctic blue whale is on a massive scale. This also helps us spot these animals because on surfacing this apparatus produces the tallest of blows of any whale, some 10 m tall that is visible from several kilometres away even in rough seas.
It is difficult to comprehend that a third of a million Antarctic blue whales were slaughtered during the industrial whaling era leaving only a few hundred animals in the population by the early 1970s. All onboard are intensely aware of the privilege in encountering these rare and magnificent marine mammals.