Elusive whales visit Scott Base

12 April 2022

Whale, whale, whale. What do we have here?

The kiwi crew in Antarctica spotted a pod of secretive mammals in the bay in front of Scott Base last month.

There was a buzz about base afterwards as the team tried to identify the species from their long distance photos and video footage. The detective work paid off when three whale experts, including one from the Department of Conservation, reviewed the imagery.

We can now confirm these are the elusive Arnoux’s beaked whales!

This is only the third time Arnoux’s beaked whales have visited in seven years, with previous sightings in 2016 and 2021.

DOC Science Advisor, marine species, Anton van Helden says it’s always lovely to see these secretive creatures because so little is known about them.

“We’re reliant on these sorts of rarely recorded events to try and learn more about them.”

Antarctica New Zealand’s Matthew Jordan, who managed to capture some footage from a distance, says the whales were in the bay for about an hour and there was plenty of debate about the species.

"I have seen a number of minke whales from Scott Base, but knew almost instantly that the round head and dorsal fin were not those of a minke whale. I’m glad we were able to get the photos to experts who all said they were Arnoux’s beaked whales.

"It was such a privilege for the team at Scott Base to have the rare experience of seeing them. We were lucky enough to see them again the following day through the telescope, breaching out by the ice shelf edge.”

Images and the sighting details will be recorded as they are of scientific importance.

These whales aren’t the only visitors Scott Base has seen recently. When the sea ice broke out in February, minke whales, orca, seals, Emperors and Adélie penguins were enjoying the open water in front of base.

Arnoux’s beaked whales have also been spotted in New Zealand’s Tasman Bay in recent years.

Photo and video: Matthew Jordan

- See the Radio New Zealand article here.