An Australian-led group of scientists has for the first time tracked down and tagged Antarctic blue whales by using acoustic technology to follow their songs.
The blue whale, the largest animal on the planet, is rarely spotted in the Southern Ocean but a group of intrepid researchers were able to locate and tag some of the mammals after picking up on their deep and complex vocals. Researcher Virginia Andrews-Goff said it was the first time acoustics have been used to lead researchers to the whales in real time, with those monitoring the whale noises working around the clock to pinpoint them.
“The acoustics led us to the whales,” she said. “They are quite, almost alien-like, deep resonating sounds. They are quite intense. Very interesting to listen to.”
“The Antarctic blue whale can grow to over 30 metres in length and weigh up to 180 tonnes, its tongue alone is heavier than an elephant and its heart is as big as a small car,” said Australia Environment Minister, Tony Burke. “Even the largest dinosaur was smaller than the blue whale.”
Andrews-Goff said the scientists were often out in boats only six metres in length, sitting alongside the 30-metre giants. “I felt like an ant next to one of these massive whales. They are huge,” she said.