Thar she blows!
The first day in our survey area, on the edge of the Antarctic sea ice, and we struck gold! After our acoustics team tracked whales all night, we saw our first Antarctic blue whale this morning. We quickly launched the seven-metre inflatable boat and zig-zagged to follow the blows of the whale. A synchronised team effort was essential, with superb seamanship from the crew of Explorer and skilled actions of the scientists. Even our most experienced whale researchers were exclaiming at the size of this awe-inspiring animal.
We carefully approached to take photos of the left and right side of the whale’s flank and dorsal fin. The shape of the dorsal and the mottling pattern on the side of the whales is individually specific and will tell us if this whale has been seen before on previous sightings voyages. By building up these enough re-sightings histories it is then possible to estimate the size of the total population. We also took a small skin biopsy sample for genetic analysis – this too can be used to uniquely identify individuals.
What a way to start our time close to the ice – amazing!