They hang as if motionless, a mother and her child, mirroring one another’s movements in the cerulean Antarctic. Then they breathe out a rainbow, and disappear into the azure sea.
The rare sight comes to us thanks to an airborne drone sent up by the crew of the Steve Irwin, named for the famed Australian animal explorer. They were spotted during an expedition of the Sea Shepherd Society, an activist conservation group, as it trolled the waters near the South Pole seeking to deter poachers. They spotted the rarely seen blue whales—at 98 feet long, the adults are the largest animals known to humans—and sent up a drone to study them from a unique angle.
"This is nice footage, and what makes it interesting is that Antarctic blue whales have a low density and are hard to see and study," said National Geographic explorer and research biologist John Calambokidis to National Geographic. He studies blue whales animals with Cascadia Research, a nonprofit group based in Washington state that studies threatened marine animals so as to find ways to protect them.
Blue whales are “highly endangered,” as National Geographic described them. Calambokidis estimated the calf to be about six months old.
Although it affords but a fleeting glimpse, that is all it takes to absorb the majestic, awe-inspiring nature of these animals.