By spying on them from space, the fascinating world of the humpback whale has been revealed in great detail, in a ground-breaking international study led by a Canterbury University scientist.
Associate Professor Travis Horton has used a combination of drone footage and 15 years of satellite imagery to track the movement of the whales, without them being any the wiser.
“Being able to see a humpback whale up close is one of the most transformative things anybody could ever experience,” he said.
The research shows that for the past 50 years at least, the whales haven’t changed their migration patterns, despite the impact of climate change on our oceans.
“Humpback whales follow the same routes across the ocean so there are effectively blue highways that the whales follow,” Professor Horton said.
That knowledge is now being used to protect those pathways from human intervention.
“I feel I have an obligation to help the population recover. Humans took them to the brink of extinction, we're obligated to help them recover.”
He says given that their feeding grounds are also being compromised by global warming more study is required to help protect them.
“Humpback whales are absolutely inspiring, they are intelligent curious emotional, they're very much like people.”