Expert explains latest theory on whale strandings during New Zealand visit

Acclaimed whale expert Philip Hoare is in New Zealand where he spoke to TVNZ1's Seven Sharp about all things whale - including the latest theory on why the mammals strand.

Seven Sharp’s Mike Thorpe met Hoare where else but at sea off Kaikoura. Source: Seven Sharp

One big new theory in the world of whale research relates to solar activity - which may lead the mammals to land.

"So solar charges, solar pulses coming from the sun - the same things that create the aurora, the aurora australis and the aurora borealis - that same effect can affect their natural GPS, their natural navigation systems and deceive them into going into shallow waters and then stranding," Hoare says.

"We know there was a big stranding back in 2016 - dozens of whales stranded all around the world - and pretty much linked to a lot of solar activity".

Hoare said he first realised he was a whale fanatic when he started going on whale watches, saying, "The captain started looking at me really weirdly like 'Who is this guy?' My friend accused me of being a whale stalker."

Hoare's obsession with watching whales soon led to writing about them, which soon became a full-time gig.

"I work a lot in Cape Cod (in the US) with a humpback whale research team there. I talk to a lot of scientists, and that's my job, really - to be the conduit between all that incredible science that's going on there that sometimes stays in the lab and I want to bring that out."

"I get paid to go and see whales - I get paid to do this."