After an earlier working life in the Australian bush, Dr Pete Gill has been involved in whale research since 1983. For 13 years he assisted Dr Bill Dawbin, the “grandfather” of humpback whale research, before branching out into his own studies of humpback and blue whale migration, using small sailing vessels to explore for whale feeding and breeding grounds around New Caledonia and the Coral Sea, the Solomon Islands, in Antarctic waters and around Tasmania. He skippered most of the Oceanic Research Foundation’s In the Wake of Flinders circumnavigation of Australia under sail in 1989, along the way defining the extent of humpback breeding grounds off the Kimberley coast. Between 1990-91, he worked as a Marine Mammal Researcher for Greenpeace Australia, while continuing humpback whale research. During the mid-1990s, Pete also worked on a Sydney University research program on southern right whales at the Head of the Great Australian Bight.
He first discovered Antarctica on the Riquita private sailing expedition to the Ross Sea in 1986 and followed this up with two more sailing expeditions: the Mount Minto Expedition to the Ross Sea in 1988, and the Iniquity Antarctic Whale Project along the East Antarctic coast in 1993. Between 1995-98, Pete helped to inaugurate Antarctic whale ecological research programs aboard the Australian government icebreaker Aurora Australis, and since 1995 has worked from time to time as a lecturer, boat driver and guide on Antarctic tourist expeditions, mainly with Aurora Expeditions. For nearly two decades he worked as a home handyman to support his research and expedition activities.
In 1998, he founded the Blue Whale Study (BWS), a pioneering long-term not-for-profit research program on the ecology of pygmy blue whales in the Bonney Upwelling blue whale feeding area off south-east Australia, the longest-running blue whale research program in the Southern Hemisphere. This was a previously unknown aggregation area which has provided an important window into understanding the ecology and management of this iconic endangered species. BWS also conducts education and mentoring programs engaging local schools and communities.
Pete lives in the bush near Portland, Victoria with his wife Susie and son Felix. He is the author of three books on whales and whale watching and numerous scientific papers, book chapters and magazine articles. His photographs have appeared in many books and magazine articles, and he has lectured on whales, whaling, sailing and Antarctica.