Scientists from the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) in New Zealand got more than they bargained for while using a new, specialty drone, when they came upon an adult Bryde's whale and calf feeding.
Not only was it likely the first Bryde's whale feeding captured by a drone, according to the researchers, but it was also a rare scene in and of itself: Bryde's whales are not often spotted feeding.
Indeed, it's enough just to see one, feeding or not. While the IUCN "red list" of threatened species lists them as "Data Deficient," for the purposes of determining their conservation status, according the video (below) supplied by the university there may be fewer than 200 Bryde's whales left in all of New Zealand's waters.
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The adult-child combo were recorded off the coast of New Zealand, in Hauraki Gulf. The grown-up was estimated to be about 12 meters (39 feet) long.
At about 0:34, the calf comes on the scene to feed near the adult. The grown Bryde's whale can be seen quite clearly opening wide its great mouth to take in plankton from just below the surface of the water.
"I was in awe of these creatures," said AUT scientist Barbara Bollard Breen in the video. "There is no way we would see so much detail from a boat-based survey."
In a case of good fortune, as CNN noted, the researchers were actually out studying dolphin pods and just happened upon the awe-inspiring scene.
The drone was far enough on high that the whales would not have been disturbed by the encounter, say the scientists.
Check out the video below, from the university: