Scientists from Australia, the United States, Britain, Chile and New Zealand have departed from Tasmania as part of the Antarctic Blue Whale Project to estimate the abundance, distribution and behavior of the species, Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke said Tuesday.
The researchers will target areas thought to be habitats of the blue whales along the edge of the ice shelf west of the Ross Sea off Antarctica, China's Xinhua news agency reported.
The researchers said they would use acoustic sonobuoy methods to track and locate the elusive animals across hundreds of miles in the Southern Ocean in the hopes of photographing them and obtaining biopsy samples to build individual sighting histories that will assist in estimating population size.
The Antarctic blue whale can grow to almost 100 feet in length and weigh up to 180 tons.
"This research shows, in contrast to Japan's so called ' scientific whaling' program, that you don't have to kill these majestic creatures to get valuable information about them," Burke said.