This scene is from an experience that I can never forget—a gathering of hundreds upon hundreds, perhaps thousands, of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus). For nearly three days, there were whales as far as I could see in every direction, horizon to horizon. And that was just on the ocean surface.
Beneath the waterline, the sight was even more mind-boggling. Whales were stacked one upon another, reaching down as far as I could see, and then some. They jostled in gigantic clumps, heaving to and fro, twisting round and round, scraping against one another in the process, exfoliating sheets of diaphanous skin, excreting slicks of oily fluids and defecating enormous clouds of iron-rich, reddish-brown poo.
It wasn’t just the sight and smell of so many whales though. It was also the sound. The collective sound of so many whales permeating the sea—clicks upon clicks, buzzing upon buzzes, all melding into an overwhelming cacophony of noise.
I approached one such mass of whales engaged in intense social activity. They were obscured by the opaque haze of defecation, oil and skin. Swimming along the periphery, I sensed the imminent dissolution of the group. I chose a direction and swam as hard as possible to get ahead of the group’s movements.
I was waiting in the right place as the group emerged from their gigantic cloud of poop and swam past me, as pictured here.
To read the complete story of this encounter, please click here.
This photograph was the winner of the Behaviour: Mammals category of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition in 2017 (#WPY53).
This is a Limited Edition Collector's Print in a series of 50. Each print is numbered and chopped with my logo. Sizes listed are the dimensions of the printed image in inches (see FAQ for equivalent sizes in centimeters). There is an additional white border around the image to allow for framing. A complete list of image and paper sizes can be found in the FAQ.