Scientists at sea to
Australian and international Scientists have set off from Hobart in search of the biggest creature on Earth, the Antarctic blue whale.
save the whales
The search project is a flagship program of the Australian-initiated International Southern Ocean Research Partnership (SORP) which involves nine other countries - Argentina, Brazil, Chile, France, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa and the United States.
The researchers hope to use newly-developed passive acoustic sonobuoy methods to track and locate the animals across hundreds of kilometres in the Southern Ocean.
Minister for Environment, Tony Burke said the inaugural voyage of the Antarctic Blue Whale Project aimed to estimate the abundance, distribution and behaviour of the species.
“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,” Mr Burke said.
“Even the largest dinosaur was smaller than the blue whale.
“Despite their colossal size we know very little about the animals, including where they breed and feed, and how many remain in our oceans today after industrial whaling slaughtered more than 340,000 of them in the early 1900s.”
He said the 18-strong team would work from small boats in freezing Antarctic conditions to deploy satellite tags on the animals.
“We then aim to be able to track their movements within their Antarctic feeding grounds and potentially further north to their breeding areas,” Mr Burke said.
“This research shows, in contrast to Japan’s so called ‘scientific whaling’ program, that you don’t have to kill these majestic creatures to get valuable information about them.
“The information gathered in this research will be supplied to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to assist in the conservation and recovery of this iconic species.”
Mr burke said the voyage would depart again from Nelson in New Zealand on 29 January and return in mid-March.
Edition 345F, 25 January 2013