Tagging Minke Whales


Tagging a whale sounds like a difficult proposition. After all, they are very big, wet and blubbery and spend most of their lives underwater. So clever scientists must find ways to reduce the degree of difficulty in tagging whales. For humpback whales in the Antarctic this is pretty straightforward, as follows:

1. Find a whale sleeping at the surface.
2. Creep up on the sleeping whale very quietly (think Elmer Fudd hunting wabbits).
3. Slap a tag on the back of the sleeping whale.
4. Get the heck out of the way as the whale wakes up.

Not really very sporting, is it?

Simultaneous satellite tag attachment (left) and biopsy sample (right) from a humpback whale

But minke whales are a different proposition altogether. These whales are smaller, faster, and more evasive than humpbacks. And, I would argue, they are much more beautiful (cue arguments from people who love humpbacks). Minke whales don’t lounge around snoring at the surface, so tagging them is pretty tricky. In fact, until today we have never managed to tag a minke whale. So we were very excited to see two groups of 4-5 minke whales today in Andvord Bay. The whales allowed us to approach them and, after a brief, but rather exciting chase, Nick managed to tag one of the whales. And then he tagged a second one. Woo hoo!

Minke Whale in Andvord Bay

John and Bob also tagged two killer whales today, including one of the large males they have been after for some time, so it’s been a banner day down south.

Finally, check out the great blog from our friends on the Point Sur.

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