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Fun Science FRIEDay – The Moby Dick of Sperm Whale Encounters

Happy FSF Folks!

So this news has been making the rounds, and it is too amazing not to include for FSF. So if you missed it, you are in luck because we highlight it again here. A giant sperm whale was captured by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) piloted as part of Bob Ballard and the Corps of Exploration’s Nautilus cruise. The whale was captured by the ROV Hercules at 598 meter (1,962 ft) below the sea surface in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.

Sperm whale captured at 598 meter (1,962 ft) depth by the ROV Hercules. (Photo Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust)

Sperm whale captured at 598 meter (1,962 ft) depth by the ROV Hercules. (Photo Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust)

You can view the amazing video and commentary here.

 

Sperm whale captured at 598 meter (1,962 ft) depth by the ROV Hercules. (Photo Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust)

Sperm whale captured at 598 meter (1,962 ft) depth by the ROV Hercules. (Photo Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust)

 

A bit of background, Sperm whales are the largest of the toothed whales and also have the largest brains of any animal on Earth. Their geographic range is anywhere in the open ocean. The Sperm whale gets its name from the spermaceti organ which fills most of its huge head. In the 18th and 19th centuries, whalers sought out the Sperm whale for the spermaceti oil, which apparently was quite valuable. You may also recognize their anatomy as the primary antagonist in the classical book, Moby Dick – “Call me Ishmael!”  Fortunately, like most whales, they are now protected against whaling, and this observation did not end in tragedy. 😉

 

Sperm whale captured at 598 meter (1,962 ft) depth by the ROV Hercules. (Photo Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust)

Sperm whale captured at 598 meter (1,962 ft) depth by the ROV Hercules. (Photo Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust)

 

Dr. Bob Ballard and his group, the Ocean Exploration Trust, have been exploring the mysteries of the ocean deep since 2008. Their goal is to engage in pure ocean exploration and educate about the wonders of the ocean. The vivid imagery they collect, and chance encounters such as this, continues to inspire the imagination of fledgling ocean scientists and senior scientists alike. The current 6-month expedition will be dedicated to exploring sites ranging from the Gulf of Mexico to British Columbia, along the way mapping the Galapagos Rift and the site of the first hydrothermal vent discovery in 1977.

You can follow the exploits of the Ocean Exploration Trust live, at their website.

There is also an amazing Q&A with cetacean experts regarding this Sperm whale encounter that can be accessed here.

Happy FSF!!