Trip Report: sperm whale expedition to Ogasawara, Japan

I love Ogasawara. It has the small island charm of Hawaii without the feeling of being overdeveloped and overrun by tourists. The ferry does potentially bring in hundreds of tourists each week, but it is typically only here for a few days at a time before it returns to Tokyo, meaning that there are contiguous days in which the town gets really sleepy -- perfect, for my tastes. 

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Ogasawara gallery: Scenery

A gallery of images from the Ogasawara Islands in Japan, formerly known as the Bonin Islands. Ogasawara was absolutely beautiful, and I can't wait to go back for another visit.

This gallery supplements my [trip report](/journal/2009/10/19/trip-report-sperm-whale-expedition-to-ogasawara-japan/).

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Ogasawara gallery: Chichijima town and expedition members

A gallery of images from Chichijima (the island we stayed on in the Ogasawara Islands, Japan) and of Wetpixel sperm whale expedition members, October 8-18, 2009.

This gallery supplements my [trip report](/journal/2009/10/19/trip-report-sperm-whale-expedition-to-ogasawara-japan/).

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Ogasawara: sperm whale / underwater image gallery

A gallery of sperm whale images and underwater photography from the Wetpixel sperm whale expedition to the Ogasawara Islands, Japan during October 8-18, 2009. Subjects include sperm whales (*Physeter macrocephalus*), Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (*Tursiops aduncus*), Pantropical spotted dolphin (*Stenella attenuata*), and carcass bits of some sort of large pelagic octopus and an unidentified giant squid.

This gallery supplements my [trip report](/journal/2009/10/19/trip-report-sperm-whale-expedition-to-ogasawara-japan/).

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A social group of 6 sperm whales / giant squid in mouth

-- VIDEO REMOVED -- I've removed the video at the suggestion of a friend of mine, who tells me that it is worth real money. Contact me privately if you are interested in the footage.

Above is a video of six sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) in the Ogasawara Islands, Japan. The lead female sperm whale has the remains of a large squid (possibly, an Architeuthis giant squid) in her mouth. 15 minutes earlier, we had been in the water in the scattered remains of the squid (birds were feeding on it) before seeing this group of sperm whales close by. It looked as if the squid had been torn apart on the surface!

Here's a photo of part of the squid, which we found and brought back onto the boat:

The arm bit is probably between 4-5 inches long, and each sucker on it had clearly-visible (and sharp!) teeth lining the rim.

Here's another shot of a cephalopod carcass we found floating around near sperm whales a couple days earlier. This time, it was a large octopus:

Tony Wu speculates that it is a seven-arm octopus (Haliphron atlanticus), but we need an expert's opinion on this.

Note: all photos and videos were taken under permit

For more photos, see [the official trip report](/journal/2009/10/19/trip-report-sperm-whale-expedition-to-ogasawara-japan/)!

15-meter male sperm whale, Ogasawara Islands


15-meter male sperm whale, Ogasawara Islands, originally uploaded by echeng.
We spent much of the today watching a huge (15m / 49ft) sperm whale. The crew said that it was a big male, and that male sperm whales in Ogasawara are both rare and shy. We dropped in several times at a distance and swam to him to see if he would tolerate our presence. In most cases, he did shallow dives as we approached, but just once (when I was alone), he surfaced and turned to face me. The sperm whale was gigantic, and his huge head had large bulges coming out of it (it has to be shaped like that to hold the spermiceti organ). I have to admit that I was a little concerned when he swam to me, nearly blocking out the sun. I know that whales have very rarely harmed humans, but the mind comes up with all sorts of bizarre scenarios. :) echeng091016_023246

For more photos, see [the official trip report](/journal/2009/10/19/trip-report-sperm-whale-expedition-to-ogasawara-japan/)!

Water surface abstract, Ogasawara Islands


Water surface abstract, Ogasawara Islands, originally uploaded by echeng.
A mild wind blew in during a flat-calm day on the ocean, creating these meandering valleys of light. Ogasawara Islands, Japan. echeng091014_0238975

UPDATE: Purchase this print!

For more photos, see [the official trip report](/journal/2009/10/19/trip-report-sperm-whale-expedition-to-ogasawara-japan/)!