Rare underwater footage of minke whale captured in Antarctica

Rare underwater footage of a minke whale has been captured by scientists in Antarctica, and is expected to help them learn more about the species. 

Scientists at the University of Canterbury captured the footage in January when studying the species in the Ross Sea. 

University of Canterbury marine mammal scientist Dr Regina Eisert says it wasn't until they were back in New Zealand the team realised they had captured the rare footage.

The camera was not working properly in the field, and only ran for an hour - so the team expected they hadn't captured any video of the species, she explained.

"We were swearing so hard in the field, we couldn't get that thing to work - we were so bummed out."

However she said it was "so awesome" when they returned to New Zealand and discovered they actually had captured it.

"I was so excited," she said.

"People respond very well to video - it's exciting, a really good way to reach non-scientific audience and scientific audience. It's just a dream all around."

While minke whales have been captured on film in other oceans, there has been no footage of the species in the Ross Sea.

Not a lot is known about the minke whale, and the footage will act as great aid in allowing scientists to learn more about the species.

"They are really not well understood - I'm starting to think they are an important species to understand in the food web," Dr Eisert says. 

"Minke Whales are not a top predator, they are in the middle of the food web. They are really not well understood, but there are lots of them."

The newly released footage allows scientists to be able to identify each animal through photo recognition. 

"We can see the whole animal underwater, we can see things like scars, abnormal pigmentation - anything," Dr Eisert said.

As well as that, it's proof a number of species thrive in the unique conditions of the Ross Sea.

It is thought there around 180,000 minke whales in "Area V", the part of Southern Ocean the Ross Sea region is a part of. 

"It literally is very clear - the water is like gin, no sunlight, no algae. It is very clear unique conditions, you don't find that in many places in the world."