Antarctica - Whales Whales Whales

Submitted by Danny Catt on Wed, 2007/03/28 - 9:32am.
Humpback Whales, Gerlache Strait, Antarctica
Humpback Whales, Gerlache Strait, Antarctica

On our last day in Antarctica we were treated to an amazing opportunity to view and see some of the Humpback Whales that migrate to Antarctic waters to feast on the abundant krill. There are a variety of whales that make their way down to the far southern waters along the edge of the Antarctic ice including Minke, Sei, Fin and even the mighty Blue Whale, the largest animal ever to have lived on the planet. All of these species are what are called baleen whales. This means that rather than having teeth, they have baleen plates (made of the same material as your finger nails, keratin) that they use to sieve out the krill that forms a huge part (almost exclusive for some species) of their diet.

Humpback Whale Tail (also known as a Fluke)
Humpback Whale Tail (also known as a Fluke)

It is said that a Blue Whale can consume up to 4,500 kilograms of krill in one day! And someone (I don't know who) has suggested that the baleen whales consume about 27 billion kilograms of krill each year! Wow!

Humpback Whale, Gerlache Strait
Humpback Whale, Gerlache Strait

The other group of whales are the toothed whales. Examples of these include the sperm whale (the largest of the toothed whales) as well as the Orca or Killer Whale. It should be noted though that Orcas are in fact the largest member of the dolphin family although we don't call them dolphins.We saw Orcas twice during our trip but on both occassions we saw them briefly and then they were gone.

Orca, Antarctica
Orca, Antarctica
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Submitted by K. Bogen (not verified) on Thu, 2007/03/29 - 12:08pm.

Dear Mr. Catt

Thank you so much for answering our many questions and for making us feel welcome. You are a gracious host. The truth is we have to contain the enthusiasm and the questions from the Coast kids! :) We are astounded at the beauty of Antartica and of your photography! WOW!

Your text, especially about Antarctic ice, was very cool! :)  

We have seen Resident Killer Whales (salmon eaters) on the coast of British Columbia. Would the Killer Whale in your photo be a Transient (mammal eating) Killer Whale? Should penguins be afraid?

"If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart." - Andrew Denton

Mr. Catt, you have helped us to hear the symphony! :)

The coasties

Submitted by Danny Catt on Tue, 2007/04/03 - 1:11pm.

Hello and thanks for your comments, kind words and question!

The categories ´resident, transient and offshore´are used to describe different ´sub-populations´of Orca in the North Pacific Ocean. I don´t know if the Orca in Antarctica have been given unique names (like transient) but biologists do know that Orca in Antarctica feed on a variety of things including marine mammals, penguins as well as Patagonian Toothfish (they eat fish, birds and mammals). So... in answer to your question, yes, penquins should be afraid, as should the seals and fish!

I hope all is going well in the Coast program so far this term!