Fin whales are the second largest animal on Earth, after blue whale. They can reach 90 feet long and weigh 80 tons. Though usually traveling in small groups, on feeding grounds rich with krill hundreds come together to splurge on the bounty. The National Geographic show Epic Adventures with Bertie Gregory filmed this gathering for the first time. It’s an amazing sight to behold, even if you only watch the video below on your phone.
Fin whales have baleen instead of teeth. It’s a comb-like structure made of keratin (like our hair and fingernails) that they strain water through in order to capture food. In the video, whales lunge and take huge gulps of water. Krill, squid, and fish can’t escape the baleen and are swallowed. The seabirds get out of the way when they sense a whale beneath them, lest they get gobbled up as well.
We saw this incredible footage on Boing Boing. The show is also available on Disney+. In the full episode, there’s also a humpback whale, penguins, and fur seals feeding with the group of fin whales. This incredible event took place in the Drake Passage, the narrow ocean between South America and the Antarctic Peninsula. It’s a known hotspot for whales but also the roughest area of any ocean on Earth. The team traveled for weeks in a sailboat in order to witness the event.
Scientists are still working to answer a lot of questions about ocean birds and marine mammals. It’s a difficult area to access and set up research projects. Researchers use drone footage to understand animal populations and behavior like never before. Another recent example is the first video of orcas killing a great white shark off the coast of South Africa. Researchers in California use drones to establish a shark forecast for the area. The technology helps scientists and also gives the rest of us awe-inspiring footage to stoke our sense of wonder.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.