By Luke Kenton
This scientist was left in a state of disbelief when she returned home from an Antarctic expedition to find out she may be the first to have captured a glimpse of the illusive minke whale swimming beneath the ice caps.
Spending several weeks surveying the killer whales of Antarctica, marine mammal expert Dr. Regina Eisert, from the University of Canterbury, said she was left an “excited scientist” when she loaded up the footage to be greeted by a profound sight.
Watching as a huge minke whale gracefully glide its way beneath the surface in the Ross Sea, Regina couldn’t believe her luck in capturing the perfect – and possibly first-ever – shot of the illusive mammal in its natural habitat.
Growing up to 10 meters in length and weighing nine tonnes, still relatively little is known about the minke whale.
Regina believes this piece of footage could help to unravel some of its mystery.
She said: “I’m such an excited scientist right now.
“The whole whale glides past – this is such a lucky shot.
“The plan was to film continuously across the icebreaker channel.
“The water’s so clear you can see right across the 50 to 80 meter lane.
“We had no idea we’d captured this footage until we were back in Christchurch going through it all.”
Despite some 180,000 minke whales believed to frequent the region, Dr Eisert admits the precise role of the mammal in the local ecosystem remains unknown.
Attempting to discover more about the mysterious whale, Regina and her team take non-invasive measures such as skin samples and photographs of minkes as they pass.
Dr. Eisert said: “We can learn so much from a small tissue sample, such as their diet.
“We think they just eat krill, but do they eat small fish as well?
“Also, DNA analysis can tell us whether Ross Sea minkes are separate from other minke whales on the Antarctic Peninsula, or if they are all part of one larger population.”