Hunting The Ice Whales

In Antarctica there’s a war going on between those killing whales for scientific research and those who are attempting to stop them. Now a team of whale researchers from Australia and New Zealand enter the fray, to prove it’s possible to research these creatures without killing a single whale.

Produced by NHNZ

Hunting the Ice Whales tells the remarkable story of an Antarctic Whale Expedition – a shared venture between the Australian Antarctic Division and New Zealand’s key marine and Antarctic research agencies – to prove it’s possible to conduct research on whales without killing them.

The documentary takes viewers on a dynamic rollercoaster ride through the the coldest and most dangerous ocean on earth, following a team of scientists on board the NIWA research vessel, RV Tangaroa.

For 25 years Japanese scientists have harpooned up to 900 whales a year in the name of  science. But on this unique quest, internationally renowned New Zealand,   Australian and French specialists combine their expertise to prove non-lethal research can work.

It’s a task easier said than done. Their voyage takes the scientists deep into Antarctic seas, racing against the onset of winter when sea ice and plunging temperatures will again lock away their research grounds for another eight months.

Led by top marine mammal researcher Nick Gales, the team battle horrendous conditions to implant satellite tags and retrieve whale biopsies. To tag whales with satellite transmitters you need to shoot them from inflatable boats – right beside the massive beasts as they breach the surface to breathe.

Nick Gales and first time sharp shooter Sarah Robinson have the heart-stopping responsibility of firing the tags while perched on the end of the inflatable’s bowsprit. It’s vital the tag is precisely implanted high on the whales back so it can transmit a position each time the whale surfaces, and with each satellite tag worth thousands of dollars there’s no second chance.

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