8 Mar 2021

Arnoux's beaked whales spotted in Antarctica

2:22 pm on 8 March 2021

Two pods of rarely seen Arnoux's beaked whales have been spotted by the Antarctica New Zealand team at Scott Base.

Arnoux's beaked whales photographed by the Antarctica NZ team at Scott Base.

The Arnoux's beaked whales spotted in Antarctic waters near Scott Base. Photo: Antartica New Zealand

Antarctica New Zealand science tech Jamie McGaw said he counted about 12 whales in total - and it looked like they were having a ball.

"They made their way across the water right in front of the station, only a few kilometres offshore.

"They were tail-slapping and breaching, with the boom of their bodies hitting the water echoing around Pram Point.

"We weren't sure exactly what type of whale they were, so the base was buzzing with discussion following the sighting," he says.

Images taken by the team are considered of scientific importance as sightings in the Antarctic are so rare, with the last five years ago.

Arnoux's is the largest beaked whale species in the Southern Hemisphere, growing to about 10m.

The species is recorded from infrequent sightings and occasional strandings in New Zealand. Two were spotted in the Hauraki Gulf two weeks ago, Antarctica New Zealand said.

Very little is known about them, Department of Conversation marine species science advisor Anton van Helden said.

"We don't know their population size, or how they spend their lives. We are reliant on these sorts of rarely recorded events, and occasional stranded animals to try and interpret their lives."

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