Scientists know that whales can absorb huge amounts of CO2. That carbon is then stored in the ocean floor when they die. So why aren’t we better protecting the ocean habitats they need in our own attempts to find effective, long-lasting solutions for the climate crisis?

Some of my best days at sea have involved watching whales. I’ve been surrounded by orca on an Icelandic boat, and in Alaska, I witnessed a coordinated hunt on krill when four humpback whales soared above the ocean like Poseidon’s enforcers, their gaping mouths sloshing with their miniscule prey. One time, in the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California), my kayak rolled when a humongous fin whale surfaced nearby.

For three days recently, crossing the Scotia Sea from Antarctica to South Georgia, in some of the richest marine waters in the world, I spend hours on deck, absorbing every roll of swell with frozen fingers wrapped around my binoculars scanning for whales. Every distant spout from their blowholes confirms their migration northwards as Antarctica heads towards winter, after higher than usual summer temperatures continued whittling away the South Polar ice shelves.

It was during this voyage, and another science-based one back in 2020, where I began to comprehend whales possess value beyond aesthetic athleticism—studies show they sequestrate significant atmospheric carbon-dioxide (CO2) and can play a part in humanity’s stuttering progress to mitigate climate change.