Dr Pete Gill (pictured above right) became involved in whale research and deepwater sailing in 1983 after several years as a rural worker in the Australian bush. For numerous years Pete assisted Dr Bill Dawbin, the ‘grandfather’ of humpback whale research before branching out into his own to study humpback migration. These studies took him to the waters around the Coral Sea, New Caledonia and the coast of Tasmania.
More sailing adventures were on the horizon. In 1989, Pete skippered the 20m schooner A & V Thistlethwayte in its circumnavigation of Australia, the Oceanic Research Foundation’s “In the Wake of Flinders” expedition. This voyage extended the known distribution of breeding humpback whales to the northernmost point of the Kimberley coast, well north of the previous presumed limit around Broome.
The Antarctic region has been a compelling component of Pete’s evolving knowledge and understanding of whale biology and ecology. He has visited Antarctica 13 times: on private sailing expeditions including Riquita’s voyage to the Ross Sea in 1986, the Mount Minto Bicentennial Expedition in 1988, the Iniquity whale survey in 1993; on whale surveys aboard the Australian government icebreaker Aurora Australis; and as a lecturer, boat driver and guide on Antarctic tourist expeditions with Aurora Expeditions, to the Ross Sea and East Antarctica. Pete assisted Dr Deb Thiele in initiating the first Antarctic cetacean ecological research program on board the Aurora Australis.
In the early 1990’s, Pete worked with Greenpeace Australia as Marine Mammal Researcher while continuing his humpback whale research. He also worked on southern right whales at the Head of Bight (South Australia) and in Western Australia, as part of a Sydney University research program. To support his research and expedition activities, he worked for many years as a home handyman, and part-time writer and photographer.
A growing awareness of upwelling events and blue whale activity in waters around south west Victoria spurred Pete into establishing the Blue Whale Study in 1998. This is now the longest running blue whale research program in the Southern Hempisphere. Pete lives in bushland near Portland, Victoria with his wife Susie and son Felix, close to the blue whales and his primary study area, the Bonney Upwelling.
Pete has authored numerous books, book chapters, scientific papers and magazine articles. His books include the Reader’s Digest Explores Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises (with Linda Gibson), the Nature Company Guide to Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises (with Mark Carwardine, Erich Hoyt and Ewan Fordyce), Whale Watching in Australian and New Zealand Waters (with Cecilia Burke, now in its 4th edition). His photographs have appeared in various books, and he has lectured on whales, whaling and Antarctica.