Our trip in Antarctica was dotted with whale sightseeing, and by the end of it I was doing quite well at predicting when we might just get lucky enough to see a whale fluke. We watched for the many different types of whales that can be seen in the antarctic, but only saw two types, Southern Humpback Whales and Killer Whales. We probably saw close to 100 humpback whales by the end of our journey and incredibly, this was before the breeding season is in full swing, so by February, the amount could be about 6 times that! We saw whales playing, breaching, eating and traveling… every time we got very close I found myself holding my breath in anticipation.
The California Ocean Alliance is a group that monitors the humpbacks down here with drones and tissue samples. The drone was made by the scientists themselves and I had the opportunity to speak with them and learn more about their project. Basically, they are attempting to get as much footage as possible to be able to monitor the size of the whales before and after the breeding season. This, along with tissue samples, the amount of calves and the whale flukes (for identification) can provide a lot of information about how well the whales are doing, in an area where monitoring is quite difficult.
In some of these pictures you can even see bubble feeding. From the horizontal water view, the feeding is visible by seeing bubbling surface water, but the drone images are able to show an incredibly beautiful perspective as the whales blow bubbles to push fish further towards the surface and allow for easier consumption (called bubble-net feeding).
Now, in the following video, although it looks as though the Orca has chomped down on this penguin, it was actually able to swim away and the whale was merely using the penguin as a play toy. Most likely, the penguin won’t survive, but sightings like this aren’t too rare. I was extremely surprised by the action, yet at the same time heated during the moment and from the video, I honestly can’t even tell who I’m rooting for.
I’ve been able to see whales in other parts of the world, but the sheer number of these creatures in the antarctic was a shock. I don’t think we went a day without seeing a whale and if you spent maybe an hour or so at a viewing platform, you were guaranteed to see at least one. I can only imagine how unforgettable February will be.