Hunting the ice whales
Documentary-maker chases Ross Sea creaturesRACHEL YOUNG
Clutching the side of boat in the middle of the Ross Sea while holding a camera became a normal experience for a New Zealand documentary-maker.
In 2010, Natural History New Zealand film-maker Max Quinn joined an Antarctic expedition that aimed to prove it was possible to undertake whale research without killing them.
The exhibition was a joint venture between the Hobart-based Australian Antarctic Division and New Zealand's key marine and Antarctic research agencies.
Quinn, an experienced film-maker who has made documentaries for the Discovery Channel, was drawn to the research as it was a ''hopeful documentary'' about whales, unlike some of his previous work about Japanese whaling boats killing upwards of 900 every year.
''It was the chance to tell a story that I'm really passionate about,'' he said.
''It's setting out to prove that you can research and learn everything you need to know about whales without harming them.''
Quinn joined about 20 scientists and 15 crew for the 42-day voyage to the Ross Sea.
''There was always something going on. I had to keep my ear to the ground,'' he said.
''I was catching a little bit of sleep when I could and I always was camera-ready.''
He filmed as scientists shot satellite tags that pierced the whales' skin and then pushed back out with a biopsy that was collected from the water.
He said the research provided vital information about whales, including their diets, migration patterns and family connections.
This was one of the more dangerous tasks because if a whale flipped its tail there was a chance they could all end up in the icy water.
To combat the often swaying conditions of the boat, Quinn tied his camera around his neck with string to ensure it would not hit the deck or go into the sea.
''It was dangerous just walking on the deck when the ship is rolling around.''
Quinn described the documentary as a record of what the ''best whale scientists in the world'' were able to achieve.
Hunting The Ice Whales will be shown at the IceFest tonight at 7.30.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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