South Georgia Right Whale project – Humpback Whale Tracking

The British Antarctic Survey whale research team at King Edward Point have been studying whale movements and patterns of habitat use in South Georgia waters. South Georgia was at the epicentre of modern whaling in the Southern Hemisphere, with over 170,000 whales killed within a days sailing of its shores. This suggests it was a very important place for whales in the past, perhaps due to its immense seasonal productivity and influx of Antarctic krill, which supports many thousands of fur seals and penguins.

For the first time ever we can now follow South Georgia whales in real time as they journey across their summer feeding grounds, to find out where they go and how they use this habitat. Two humpback whales were tagged on the 19th and 21st January 2019, and this map shows their locations. Overlayed on the map (when available) are the latest estimates of chlorophyll a density from the Global Imagery Browse Services (GIBS), operated by NASA/GSFC/ESDIS.

Click on a track to find out how far the whale has gone from the initial tagging location.

In the coming weeks we will find out where the humpback whales go in the austral autumn, and perhaps even watch them on their return migration to wintering grounds when they have finished feeding. This work will help us to better understand where whales feed in relation to areas of high primary productivity such as the Antarctic polar front, krill fishery hotspots, and the Marine Protected Areas of the region.

This work is supported by EU BEST, Darwin PLUS, WWF, South Georgia Heritage Trust, Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the Friends of South Georgia Island.