Tagging Whales in the Antarctic Seas

Andvord Bay (Wed., 5/20/09) – The ice is getting thick and the minke whales are getting playful…
by -- May 21st, 2009

While the science was going right on schedule, the highlight of the day was an unanticipated visit from an extremely curious minke whale.

The team awoke this morning in Andvord Bay and we readied for the day. It is staying darker longer each morning so splashing the small boats is occurring later each day. At about 8:45 we deployed the tagging and prey-mapping zodiacs and the observer team began running a survey of the bay. I launched out with the prey mapping team. Not too long afterwords we heard with relief the positive news of “Tag On!” So we fell into our role of mapping the sub-surface krill densities using echosounders for the rest of the day. We had very little wind the last 24 hours and the ice is really building up. So we were moving very slowly through the ice pack in our zodiacs today. Zodiacs don’t make the best ice-breakers…

(77) Pat filming a playful minke

Pat filming a playful minke

While the science was going right on schedule, the highlight of the day was an unanticipated visit from an extremely curious minke whale. The small whale came directly up on our zodiac from behind and played with us at close range for about 10 minutes. He came within inches of the boat multiple times. He really wanted to play. After a few minutes the tag/observer boat moved in the whale began playing with them as well. We were able to get some very nice close-up video both above and below the water line. (So hopefully we will be able to post some of this soon.) I am posting a photo Elliott took of me videotaping the whale at point-blank range. The minke left but returned after a while for a second encounter.

The prey mapping zodiac stayed out to well after dark to try to capture the change in krill depth as night falls (OK it was 4:00pm in the afternoon but completely dark…). When we were climbing up the ladder back onto the Gould a rather large leopard seal popped up just off our starboard… giving us even more of a good reason to keep a good grip while climbing onto the boat.

Got to run. I’m on the 2:00 – 4:00am shift radio tracking tonight… beep…beep…beep.


  1. Jackie
    May 21, 2009

    Awesome minke whale

    Beauuuuuuuuuuuutiful!!! What a treat for all the people in the zodiacs! And what a treat for the whale, to see all those enraptured faces looking down at him.

    • Norlyn (Lindsey Feldman's mom)
      May 28, 2009

      Awesome minke whale

      I am enjoying the postings , love the video

  2. Kylie
    May 26, 2009


    WHOA! I bet you don’t see a minke whale come to play twice in one day every day! What an AWESOME experience!

  3. Tom McMurray
    May 30, 2009

    When do the whales leave?


    So when do the whales (and krill) leave the area? Days sound short and ice is building… And when they leave where do they go? Has anyone ever tagged these whales with the popup sat tags like Andre uses for bluefin?


©2016 Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University | Box 90328 | Durham, NC 27708
how to contact us > | login to the site > | site disclaimers >

footer nav stuff