The eye in space studying whale strandings

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on October 29, 2019 - Duration: 01:39s

The eye in space studying whale strandings

Researchers at the British Antarctic Survey are using satellite imagery to detect and study massive whale strandings, with the hope of figuring out how to stop them.

Emer McCarthy reports.

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The eye in space studying whale strandings

They're the giants of the sea, and now whales are being tracked using satellite images from space in an attempt to detect them when they beach in remote places.

Researchers in Cambridge used very high resolution satellite images from Maxar Technologies to capture the biggest mass stranding of baleen whales yet recorded.

Jennifer Jackson from the British Antarctic Survey.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) DR JENNIFER JACKSON, BRITISH ANTARCTIC SURVEY SAYING: ''What monitoring with satellites can do is tell us where the whales have stranded and when they stranded.

So it will give us patterns that can then help people to figure out causes better and get down there fast in order to get the information that they need." It is hoped the technology will help prevent mass stranding events like one which occurred in Chile in 2015, in which more than 340 whales were stranded in the depths of Patagonia.

The remoteness of the region meant that the stranding went undetected for several weeks and it was months before air and sea surveys were completed.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) DR JENNIFER JACKSON, BRITISH ANTARCTIC SURVEY SAYING: "So there are places in the world where strandings are more likely to happen and we would like to be strategic about where we monitor to try to help fill in gaps where people cant easily monitor but they know that whales are stranding and they need to get a better handle on the reasons why those strandings are occurring and then get there faster in order to help understand and then mitigate them." Whale strandings are still poorly understood by scientists but it's thought they are caused by a number of factors including poor health, pollution, and climate change.

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