Researchers working in the Gulf of Mexico were shocked when an inquisitive sperm whale barged into their live stream feed, which was taking place nearly 2,000 feet below the surface.
Researchers with the Nautilus Live, who were working with the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Hercules, were shocked to see a sperm whale hanging around their camera. The encounter took place off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico, at 1,962 feet below the surface.
According to the researchers, the whale seemed as curious about the ROV as the ROV was about it, taking several turns around the odd-looking mechanical thing impinging on its turf. Such close encounters between sperm whales and ROVs are very rare.
The Nautilus exploration vessel is on the first leg of a six-month expedition throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. When the sperm whale appeared in the live stream, researchers had been using the ROV Hercules to map bubble plumes through the water column in an effort to study natural gas seeps in the Gulf.
Nautilus Live makes its explorations available live online, where site visitors can check in on what the undersea researchers are studying. The Nautilus Exploration Program engages in pure ocean exploration of the seafloor and launches many of its expeditions from the Nautilus, a 210-foot (64-meter) research vessel operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust.
Meanwhile, sperm whales are the largest predator with teeth on the planet. Males of the species can top almost 70 feet (21 meters) long. They have been classified as vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. The species is protected under an International Whaling Commission moratorium. At the peak of the whaling era around the mid-20th century, nearly 25,000 sperm whales were being killed every year, which dramatically reduced their population. Even though sperm whales are curious, such underwater encounters are a rare occurrence due to the whales’ reclusive nature and the great depths to which they dive.
You can watch the video of the incident https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkBpummjR5I