Hovering just above clear green seas off Augusta in Western Australia's South-West, a drone has captured stunning footage of a pod of Southern Wright whales swimming with a white calf.
The footage was captured by researchers from Murdoch University leading a collaborative research project with Aarhus University in Denmark.
It's unclear if the young white whale is the same as the extremely rare southern right whale albino calf spotted off Augusta in July - but researchers are very excited by the sighting
"Drones are allowing us to non-invasively measure the size and body condition of free living southern right whales, which in turn allows us to investigate important aspects of their health and reproduction, including the growth rate of calves in relation to the condition of their mothers," said Murdoch's Dr Frederik Christiansen.
The use of drones allows the research team to measure and asses the whales' body size and health, and see them from a unique perspective.
Down at water level, researchers are attaching sensors to the whales with suction cups, allowing them to assess fine-scale movements, acoustic communications, ambient noise, calf suckling rates and body condition.
Murdoch's Professor Lars Bejder said the team wants to better understand the behaviours of whales in their breeding and calving grounds, and how humans may influence their behaviour.
"Little is known about the three dimensional movements and habitat-use of southern right whales in their breeding and calving grounds in Australia – many of which are slated for development activity, including associated increases in shipping, marine tourism and recreational activity. Our aim is not only to study the behavioural ecology of these amazing animals, but also to provide information to industry and management towards conservation," said Professor Bejder.
"We need to know more about the ambient ocean noise in these regions and the extent to which southern right whales will be exposed to increased noise from human activity."