Diving with Blue Whales | Sri Lanka


TIM NOONAN: The largest animal that’s ever
roamed the planet. Asha De Vos: It’s just immense its just unfathomable
I think, but its built so perfectly, so streamlined. TIM NOONAN It’s as if the ocean parts to make
way for a living submarine… We’re just metres away from the biggest creature
that’s ever roamed the planet. 30 metres long… weighing 140 tonnes. It’s really hard to imagine that an animal
that large can exist at our door step and we know so little about it. TIM NOONAN: We’re on a scientific expedition
to a kingdom of rare blue whales located off the coast of Sri Lanka. Asha de Vos: It’s coming right at us its closer
than you can ever imagine oh my god look at its strong butterflies in the stomach. TIM NOONAN: We’ll get as close as anyone ever
has to these timid giants but no one expected this… Almost all Blue Whales travel vast distances
in search of food … from the warm waters of the equator to the north and south poles. But in Sri Lanka — a tropical island about
the size of Tasmania – the blue whales are different. They don’t seem to migrate at all and, as
yet, no one knows why Asha De Vos: Blue whales in other parts of
the world migrate vast distances but the ones out here seem to hang around all year round
so it’s pretty unusual. TIM NOONAN: Our guide is marine biologist
Asha De Vos from the University of Western Australia. Asha was born in Sri Lanka and leads the first
major study of these unique blue whales. Asha De Vos: This is the least known population
of blue whales in the world. TIM NOONAN: But until now it hasn’t been safe
to research these whales has it ? Asha De Vos: No we’ve just come out of a thirty
year civil war and during that time we didn’t have access to the whales we couldn’t go out
to sea but now we’ve got the opportunity and it’s the time for us to really try to understand
these populations. TIM NOONAN: For almost three decades Sri Lanka’s
brutal civil war kept the world away from these whales. Asha De Vos: Fishing was very much restricted
in this area which meant there weren’t a lot of boats going out which meant it became somewhat
of a safe haven for the whales who came up here so in someway they were very much protected
by the war. TIM NOONAN: Now this wild ocean has been reopened
and Asha’s scientific study is beginning. But for a long time she thought this day would
never come. Asha De Vos: This is a part of the world where
women are at the forefront and I think that was one of my biggest challenges convincing
people I could do it even though I am not a man I don’t need to be a man to do it. TIM NOONAN: So passionate, why? Asha De Vos: I want to know more I want to
know more about the largest animal to ever rule the planet. We don’t know anything about
it its hard for me to understand these huge creatures can be just there and we know next
to nothing. TIM NOONAN: Whale! Whale! is that a blue? Asha De Vos: Yeah that’s a blue… there’s
a blue right out there. TIM NOONANl We’re 20 kilometres off the southern
tip of Sri Lanka. As we get closer the blue whale hears the engine and dives… Our quest will not be easy…. Asha De Vos: They are incredibly elusive whats
there personality they really shy and very timid one minute you see them and then they
are gone. So we’ve got one shot… TIM NOONAN: So you have got one shot one chance? Asha De Vos: Pretty much and we have to keep
scouring the ocean to make sure we don’t miss out. There it is! Look its going its going its
going up beautiful keep your eye on it! TIM NOONAN: This whale does not get spooked.
Beneath the surface you get a true sense of the whale’s immense size. Covered with remora
fish, some are almost a metre long. Asha De Vos: We kind of think its heart is
the size of a small car, we think a child could crawl through its arteries. The tail from tip to tip would be about three
metres. So huge but when it moves, so gentle and absolutely graceful when its about to
dive it lifts it tail out of the water and slithers into the water no huge splash its
just so smooth and clean. TIM NOONAN: Blue whales were a prime target
for hunters last century. No other whale delivered as much oil and meat hundreds of thousands
were killed. In the last fifty years their numbers have
hardly increased. Only ten thousand are left which is why they remain endangered. Asha
photographs skin markings and tails called flukes — they’re a whale’s finger prints. Her photo album is the first whale census
here …She’s also marking the exact location of every whale we see. Asha De Vos: We can paint some kind of picture
of what might be happening underwater… TIM NOONAN: And above water there is danger
in all directions. Asha’s whales are right in the middle of one
of the busiest shipping lanes on earth. Her research is looking at whether a slight
change of course for the ships will reduce collisions with whales. Since the war ended Sri Lanka’s seas are being
plundered with little if any control on what’s being taken. These Manta Rays will be exported to China
because of a misguided belief their gills increase life expectancy. They are such a beautiful majestic creature
in the water. Do they used anything else from the animals or is just the fills they are
after? Asha De Vos: Chinese medicine uses the gills
and that’s it. TIM NOONAN: But the biggest potential threat
to the whales from peace is a new and unregulated whale watching industry. Here in the port of Mirissa there are 15 boats
chasing blue whales — next year it’s predicted there’ll be one hundred. Chitral Jayatilake: There are some small operators
who through their ignorance they might be too close to whales. TIM NOONANl Chitral Jayatilake is a naturalist
with Sri Lanka’s biggest tourism company. He wants new laws to protect the whales. Chitral Javatilake: We know the world is going
to come and look at Sri Lanka as a fantastic place to do whale watching and as more operators
get in to see more the need for these guidelines and discipline is formalised. My dream one day is hopefully Sri Lanka is
known as the land of the blue whale. TIM NOONAN: Asha’s blue whale sitings are
plotted over a map of the ocean and a pattern is emerging… The blue whales are concentrated over the
deepest underwater canyons. Asha De Vos: This dark, dark area is where
the canyon is and our sittings are pretty much spot on, on top of the canyon so obviously
there are processes going on in the canyon that is encouraging the whales to hang around
there … making it more productive giving them food its pretty exciting. TIM NOONAN: The biggest living creature eats
one of the smallest — krill — tiny shrimp about the size of a ten cent piece. They need as much as four tonnes a day. Asha De Vos: Oh look at that. See how smooth
he comes up so close. It’s almost like I feel like ive never seen a whale before I get that
excited. There are so many mysteries that run through
your head in that instant but I’m here and I get to see them! It’s just phenomenal you
can’t stop smiling. No I can’t I can’t I’m going to admit that. TIM NOONAN: But there is an unpleasant side
to Asha”s research… Asha De Vos: It smells, oh I wouldn’t even
describe it as fishy its not pleasant. TIM NOONAN: This is blue whale poo… and
yes, it’s orange. So what scientifically can you learn from
this? Asha De Vos: One thing is that when you see
it you know immediately this is a feeding area which is quite a big thing for us to
find out. TIM NOONAN: There are other whales here as
well — these are Sperm Whales. They’re far more sociable and even hang around
long enough for me to get in the water for a closer look. But it’s blue whales we’re here to see and
out of the blue comes our closest encounter This whale is four times the size of our boat…
and it accidentally hits us. Oh my god he’s going to hit the boat! Look
out close he is. You can just see it under here! I actually thought as the whale came up it
lifted the boat out of the water, you probably won’t be able to tell but I thought we were
going to topple over! Asha De Vos: I think the one thing we have
to remember it wasn’t an aggressive move on the whale part we were bobbing we were switched
off, we saw it coming towards us I think we took it by surprise because we were so stealthy
at that point, so good encounters happen to those who wait and that was quite an encounter
really. TIM NOONAN: It’s ten meters off the boat its
going to go right past us right in front of us wow. Asha De Vos: My hand’s shaking guys this is
not my first whale wow, wow oh my god guys. My heart is racing and I have seen hundreds
of blue whales. I think I’ve got tears in my eyes. Every single sighting end every single time
I remind myself how absolutely mind blowingly luck I am to be able to go out and sit with
the largest animal in the planet who wouldn’t smile right?

14 thoughts on “Diving with Blue Whales | Sri Lanka”

  1. Incredible.. this vid seems to be from 2011. Any update on whether they've been able to properly manage the boat operators that were mushrooming around whale viewing?

  2. I've been to Mirissa and I didn't like it at all. It was sad to see how 100s of boats hover around the poor animal

  3. Why do scientists need to know about everything? Just leave them alone for fuck sake. One day humans will all be gone from the planet and then nature can get back to normal.

  4. It’s no wonder that they’re cautious around people. Our mutual encounters did not go well for them. Thank God they’re not vindictive, as they have every right to be. So who’s the more evolved species here? If you’re watching this, I think you know.

  5. As much as I don't act like this I'll say it

    🐋Blue whales are biggest creatures ever let's be careful and not be whale hunters blue whales are awesome let's appreciate there existence 🐳

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