An unexpected encounter took place between the Research vessel the Gulf of Mexico (Louisiana) and the rare sperm whale, also known under the name of cachalot. The ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle) was placed 1.962 feet underwater.
The sperm whale is the biggest whale in the family of toothed whales. In addition it has the largest brain ever encountered in an animal living on this planet and it is also the loudest one on Earth, being able to make calls up to 230 decibels. People may know about this species of whale from Herman Melville’ Moby Dick.
The mammal has got its name from the spermaceti organ which forms most of the head. The head of the sperm whale represents one-third of its whole body. The spermaceti organ discharges an oil which was very much sought by whaling ships during the 18th and 19th century. The wax-like spermaceti was used for lamps and candles and also as a lubricant. In addition, the waste product of the whale, ambergris, can be used in perfumes. The whale can reach up to 60 feet in length. Just like most species of whales, the sperm whale is also under environmental protection.
Together with his team, oceanographer Robert Ballard was exploring the Gulf of Mexico. They were gathering data for the Exploration Vessel Nautilus, an expedition which deals with mapping the Galapagos Rift and exploring how life looks around hydrothermal vents on the bottom of the ocean. While they were exploring the ocean using the ROV Hercules, the scientists were more than surprised to see that a sperm whale had decided to pay them a visit. Instances in which sperm whales encounter ROVs are very rare.
The whale swam 1.962 feet beneath the water surface and passed underneath the vessel. At first the researchers mistook it for a humpback whale. The team of researchers commented:
“The whale circled Hercules several times and gave our cameras the chance to capture some incredible footage of this beautiful creature. Encounters between sperm whales and ROVs are incredibly rare.”
The researchers could not let such a chance to slip through their hands so they recorded the encounter with the cachalot. It seems that the whale was so close that some marks caused by the propellers of the boat were visible on its nose. One of the team members and even people who watched the video even said that the whale did not seem real.
Image Source: National Geographic