Sperm whales in Dominica, Day 2


Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) rub up against each other while socializing
**UPDATE**: See an iTunes podcast about my Dominica sperm whale encounters! [[DiveFilm HD, via iTunes](http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/divefilm-hd-video-hd/id214353624#)]

After yesterday's incredible encounters, we left dock (late -- island time!) and ventured north, where we were told sperm whales had been sighted. After an hour and a half of cruising, we spotted a tight bunch of whales on the surface, and when we dropped in, we discovered 11 sperm whales! 9 of them were clustered together in a tight ball, and 2 were off to the side a bit.

The whales were clustered with their heads touching each other, and were rubbing up against each other constantly. Many of the males were aroused, with penises sticking out, which like in humans, seems to be very common amongst juveniles.

In this group, the echo-locating clicks were louder than usual, and when I got within a few meters of the group, my body resonated with every crisp *POP*. The water around the group of whales was full of sloughed-off sperm whale skin (which looks like pieces of black plastic bag) and all of the whales' surface activity had filled the water with micro-bubbles. Difficult conditions for photography. Luckily, they let us get really, really close.


Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) rub up against each other while socializing

After 30 minutes, the a big female appeared and the whales started to move *en masse*, following her. I was in absolutely perfect position for this and watched a beautiful scene unfold (shooting video) on the back of my Canon 5D Mark II -- 7 sperm whales glided by my camera, the closest of which was less than 2 meters away. My lungs were burning, and I felt like I was going to pass out. Unfortunately, I had gotten off sync and ended up recording a bunch of clips of my fins. EPIC ECHENG FAIL.

I know -- I can't complain. The social group performed for us for half an hour, which was absolutely incredible!

Later on in the day, the crew started shouting in excitement because they saw a large male off in the distance. They are incredible spotters, and could identify the sperm whale as being a large male just from seeing its blow. Tony, Andrew and I jumped in and swam hard toward the male, which had already attracted 8 juvenile whales.

Andrew says that a few weeks ago a large male showed up. They had 32 whales on the surface at once. I wish I had been here for that gathering!

A large male sperm whale attracts 8 juvenile and female whales

This particular male wasn't as big as the the one we saw in Ogasawara in October, but it was still impressively large. His fluke was at least twice the width of any other whale in the group.


A split image of a social group of sperm whales

I can't believe the encounters we've had in just 2 days. All of us are exhausted, but we can't wait for another day on the ocean. As always, I've posted more photos on Flickr.

All images taken under permit.