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Minke Whale Tagging Expedition in Antarctica reveals the secrets of a whale’s eye view for the very first time

Louise Mumford
By Louise Mumford
16 Mar 2018
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I am very excited to be able to share a scientific first with you that is aiding in the ongoing protection of a pristine wilderness. Antarctica offers the perfect haven for many species of the world’s cetaceans, including the elusive minke whale.

For me, the conservation and protection of these magnificent and endangered species is so incredibly vital, along with the other fragile flora and fauna to be found on the White Continent.

I have been fortunate to have been able to make a number of Antarctica voyages and adventures and have been equally fortunate to have only worked with those operators who could prove their exemplary credentials in terms of expertise and service on board.

 

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But more crucially, I have aligned myself with only those expedition voyage companies that were adhering to the very strictest of environmental criteria, the guidelines of which are laid out by IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators). What mattered a great deal to me was that I could travel with companies that support and nurture conservation efforts and scientific research programmes in Antarctic waters.

The fact that there is such a selection of experts from so many fields on board the expedition voyages, makes the experience so much more meaningful. Marine biologists, cetacean and ornithology experts and naturalists are joined on board by a diverse selection of other fascinating companions from wildlife photographers to artists and historians.

 

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While they want to enrich your journey with their knowledge, they also are encouraged to undertake important research and conservation projects while in Antarctic territories – something that I feel sure you would be delighted to find out more about or even participate in during your polar voyage.

The waters surrounding Antarctica are teeming with life that is fragile and sometimes endangered. The health of the diverse lifeforms to be found in these cold oceans is a clear indicator of the health of our planet and so research here plays such an important part.

 

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The decision by certain expedition operators to invite some of the world’s most renowned experts on board their Antarctic voyages enables them to continue their vital work. These special guests of course also share details of their projects with travellers on board, a truly unique added dimension to your journey.

One such fascinating expert is Dr Ari Friedlander, an Associate Professor at Oregon State University's Marine Mammal Institute and team member at non-profit organisation California Ocean Alliance. Ari's research focuses on understanding the underwater behaviour and ecological links in marine mammals, work that has taken him on over 25 research trips in Antarctica. California Ocean Alliance has a solid commitment to world-class marine research that enables change in policy to help safeguard oceans and marine mammals for the future.

 

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Ari was on-board one of my favourite Antarctic voyages in late January 2018 and as part of his ongoing research, managed to successfully attach a suction cup video tag to the most elusive of cetacean species, minke whales. Ari’s team were able to attach non-invasive suction cup camera tags with 3D motion sensors to the whales which remained on the skin surfaces for almost 48 hours.

Upon retrieving the devices, the researchers were able to study the feeding behaviour of the whales and analyse the data captured. This and other projects allow researchers to develop measures to protect fragile polar ecosystems and natural whale habitats worldwide.

 

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The fact that these whales surface for such a short period of time has meant that tagging has long been an impossible challenge and therefore, studying their behavioural patterns has previously been a mystery. Ari himself is thrilled at the success of this recent journey, as were the guests on-board the voyage who were able to bear witness to this historic feat.

Says Ari of the collaboration with passenger expedition voyages in Antarctic and California Ocean Alliance, “Without this singular focus, we could not succeed, we could not learn and we could not protect places like the Antarctic”.

 

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In my wish to recommend to you a life-changing expedition adventure in Antarctica, you will also be delighted to know that your decision to go, will help support these types of projects and indirectly help to fund and support ongoing, internationally accredited science and outreach programs.

 

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