Acoustic mapping of endangered Southern Ocean whales



During the 20th century, more than 2 million Antarctic whales were killed. The present-day status of many of these populations remains poorly known. Yet, precise information on post-exploitation recovery of these whales is critical for broader ecological conservation and management of the Antarctic marine environment. Many species of Antarctic whales make loud distinctive sounds, and within a species these sounds may vary with the geographic region in which they are recorded. Newly validated instrumentation and methods for listening to whales have resulted in the ability to detect and reliably locate sounds produced by some species, such as blue whales, over extreme distances.

On the ACE voyage we propose to apply these new methods for listening to and locating Antarctic whales throughout the Southern Ocean. This work would be the first ever circumpolar survey for Antarctic whales to be completed in a single season. The data from this voyage will also provide more detailed knowledge of the geographic distribution of Antarctic, sub-Antarctic, and sub-tropical whales, especially blue and fin whales that make very loud, long-travelling sounds. The locations of groups of whales collected during the ACE voyage will be compared with environmental data from satellites, existing long-term underwater listening stations, and with historical whaling catch data and contemporary sighting survey data to better understand how they are distributed in the Southern Hemisphere.


Principal Investigator (PI)

Brian Miller 

Australian Antarctic Division, Australia


Circumpolar acoustic mapping of endangered Southern Ocean whales

Principal institution / country

  • IWC-SORP Antarctic Blue Whale Project, (UK)
  • University of Aberdeen (UK)
  • University of Washington, Seattle (USA)
  • Mammal Research Institute Whale Unit, University of Pretoria (South Africa)
  • PELAGIS Observatory CNRS-UMS 3462, University of La Rochelle (France)
  • NOAA Ocean Acoustics Program (USA)
  • Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling, University of St Andrews, Scotland (UK)
  • Alfred-Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven (Germany)
  • Curtin University Centre for Marine Science and Technology, Perth (Australia)
  • Australian Marine Mammal Centre (Australia)