VIDEO: Humpback whales fight, and more…

By John Pickrell 8 June 2016
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Australia’s Centre for Whale Research brings us humpbacks fighting at night using thermal cameras, blue whales, killer whales, and more.

THE CENTRE FOR WHALE RESEARCH brings us some incredible footage of Australian humpback males fighting at night using thermal cameras, enormous local pygmy blue whales, killer whales, and more. Taken from The CWR’s boat, based out of Freemantle in Western Australia. 

The Centre for Whale Research 

The husband and wife team have a long history with both whales and Australian Geographic. They arrived in Australia in 1990, fresh from studying whales in the USA, and the AG Society gave them a grant to set up in a shack at Enderby Island in the Pilbara’s Dampier Archipelago (AG 52). From here they used a Zodiac to observe migrating humpbacks. Later they built their first research vessel, a sailing catamaran, and used it to discover the whales’ calving grounds, further north, off the Kimberley coast (AG 103). 

They acquired their third vessel, Whale Song, in 2010, a trawler-type ship, which had been built as a whale research vessel in 2001 and sound-proofed to military specifications. Because the ship is so quiet, they can tow a hydrophone and detect sound in a way that is difficult for conventional vessels. It also means the CWR can assist the Australian Navy in exercises and testing equipment, and, while travelling to and from exercises around Australia, they conduct a multitude of whale surveys.

The navy contributes unused sonobuoys, which, during our voyage, are thrown out at regular intervals from the stern of the boat. The buoys drop hydrophones (attached to an inflatable balloon and antenna at the surface) to a depth of 30-300m, where they transmit what they hear back to the ship. Sonobuoys are normally dropped from aircraft to detect enemy submarines, but they work very well for spying on whales, too.

See the Centre for Whale Research feature in and article on the mysteries of blue whales in Australian waters in AG#133, out now.