Antarctic whales an indicator for world environmental health, scientists say: Part 2

ABC News' James Longman joins a team of researchers as they make their last attempt at collecting crucial data from a native whale before the water turns to ice.
6:29 | 05/21/19

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Transcript for Antarctic whales an indicator for world environmental health, scientists say: Part 2
The clouds break away. It's morning in Antarctica. One of the most breathe taking places on the planet. We've been following a group of researchers on their mission to document the plight of the whale population in the region. And today is their last chance. As winter draws near, and the waters will soon turn to ice. We're going to head over that direction where there was some calm water and hopefully some snoozy whales. We have sleeping whales up there. Can we get the tag pole ready? This is the whole point of this mission, to get as close as possible to the whales and tag them with these gps systems that can tell us so much more about their behavior. The drone team places their camera in the sky. As we inch closer to a group of sleeping humpbacks, they're startled by our boat. In a rare display, one begins breaching. Unable to tag this group of whales, the biologists move on. That was exciting. Not very useful for science, but awesome. Awesome to see. Soon they spot another pod. They're met with disappointment. Oh. Anything different to do here? Tagging is critical to their research and this bay is one Ari has returned to many times throughout the years. We ended up matching a food patch that measured over 2 million tons and we found over 500 humpbacks in here at the same time. It tells us the critical places for animals and if we need to set up marine protected areas to keep out commercial fishing, we know where the places are every A lot has been made about kril and how as the kind of bedrock of their eco system, there could be possibly an issue going forward. Can you explain why that is? There's an impi mat relationship with krill predators and sea ice down here. In the long time krill populations are going to decline. The other animals that feel that is the animals that require a massive amount of food. The tag is ready and they move forward once again. There we go. The tag will stay on capturing data for the researchers equipped with a camera. It provides them with a whale's eye view of the world. So success. We live. There it is. The wheal woken up, beguns to eat. The krill moves past the camera. We're combining the data and get a really good picture of the ecology of whales in the area. Chris Johnson has been instrumental in taking the research data and turning it into policy. Their goal is to protect 30% of the ocean's surrounding Antarctica by 2030. Time is of the essence. Recent research said we have 12 years to fight the impacts of climate change. It's hard to imagine this continent could one day look drastically different, placing some of the world's most beloved animals in danger. In my work as a news reporter, we're often presenting issues of life or death, but being here and learning about the science, you get the sense this really is life or death for all of us. During the height of the cold war, the antarctic treaty was signed designated the continent as a natural reserve for peace and science. Since then it's been a place where we come to determine the health of the world. We head to the Ukrainian research station to see one of the places where Earth science is recorded. As we head inside, we learn this place has even more significance than we thought. Right up there in 1985 buzz one of the places that scientists discovered the hole in the ozone a pretty special place. It's an issue that "Nightline" shed light on in 1992 becoming the first to ever broadcast live in Antarctica. Scientists stay ozone hole over the area, a thinning of the ozone layer is now the largest ever recorded. Reporter: Since then the hole in the ozone has recovered and is on its way to healing completely. It is one of the biggest success stories that we have for nature. I'm hopeful we can fight climate change both here and at home. And that ambition is one that unites scientists and expedition leaders alike. What are you hoping people take home with them from a trip like this? They realize the only change we can do is at home. We check in with Monica to see how it changed her outlook. When you hear the debate at home about climate change and global warming, what has this trip done to inform you about that? It's opened my eyes. I think about recycling at home, but seeing the ice formations and the melting patterns and the refreezing patterns, it's really brought home just all the other things that go about with climate change. You mean all the stuff you can do back home that might make a difference here? Exactly. Making a difference to this place from thousands of miles away might seem impossible, but the recovery of the humpback whale is testimony to what can be done to save our planet wherever we are. Up next, the billionaire

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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